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Venezuela prompted EU to change summit declaration

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 26, 2013 at 7:45 pm •  Published: January 26, 2013

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has nationalized a long list of foreign companies, sometimes triggering compensation disputes. Bolivia's Evo Morales nationalized several Spanish electricity distribution companies last year, and Argentina's Cristina Fernandez has refused to pay Grupo Repsol $10.5 billion for expropriating the Spanish company's stake in the YPF oil company.

A European Union delegate told the AP that they agreed on Saturday to put in Venezuela's phrasing despite the setbacks suffered by their companies and investors.

"Venezuela was unhappy with the language, so they were able to come up with new language based on Venezuela's text. It has been agreed. The EU has accepted this," the EU delegate told AP on condition of anonymity given the closed-door nature of the talks.

Last year, Venezuela began its withdrawal from a World Bank-affiliated arbitration body, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. A top government lawyer said at the time that Venezuela faced more than two dozen arbitration cases, many of them before the Washington-based body. Argentina, for its part, leads the world in the number of World Bank arbitration settlements that it has refused to pay.

Bolivia's delegation praised Venezuela for standing up to the Europeans. "Venezuela is advocating for the sovereign right of counties," Bolivian Communications Minister Amanda Davila told the AP. "It's right to look after its economic interests."

Honduran lawmaker Gloria Oqueli, co-president of the Euro-Lat assembly that includes more than 100 lawmakers from both regions, said, "European businesses often stress that countries should provide them with legal certainty, and we agree with this, but the thing is that many times these treaties, agreements and negotiations with multinational corporations simply exclude the inhabitants of Latin America."

Aside from the document, European Union Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht on Saturday urged Argentina and Brazil to reduce barriers to European imports and finally clinch a long-delayed free trade deal between the EU and the Mercosur trade group, which last year expanded to include Venezuela.

"Mercosur includes some of our most important economic partners on this continent so it is no secret that Europe would like to have made more progress in these talks by now," De Gucht said. "On the core issue of access to each other's markets we have still not gotten down to business."

After meeting with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez told reporters at the summit that Mercosur will make an offer to the EU at year's end to strike a deal on a free trade agreement. She said that the deal must not harm the South American economic bloc.


Associated Press writers Eva Vergara in Santiago and Ian James in Caracas, Venezuela, contributed to this report.