A complex and difficult panorama
The 14th Ibero-American Summit of heads of state and government, held on November 19-20, 2004, in San José, Costa Rica, brought to light very clearly the crisis and complexity of the project to establish a common Ibero-American space. The summits themselves are the highest expression of this common space and at the next one, in Salamanca in October 2005, Spain’s Socialist government will be facing the definitive failure or success of the Ibero-American project.
On the one hand, the Costa Rica summit revealed a number of problems and issues derived from the recent Latin America policy of the governments of José María Aznar and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero –problems that had a significant impact on the low profile of the summit–. On the other hand, a significant number of Latin American participants are showing increasing lack of interest in the summits. They feel the agendas and operational capacity of the summits are far from their main concerns and most pressing issues. Finally, there has been a concerted attempt, initiated by the Aznar government, to begin a new era of summits that will overcome the current crisis by taking a great leap forward and creating the Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB).
Let us examine each of these three factors in detail in order to determine what Spain’s Latin America policy should be, given the new scenario opened by the Socialist government, and also, what the Ibero-American summit in Salamanca represents in terms of the future of the summits.
The Latin American policy of the Popular and Socialist governments
Spain’s Latin American policy, due to its special profile among the country’s other foreign affairs issues –especially because of the historical, cultural, and linguistic links involved– is conducted at several levels: bilateral, subregional, regional and European. The regional or Ibero-American level is particularly important and specific. This level, made operative at the Ibero-American summits and in the project to establish a common Ibero-American space, is the one that makes Spain’s Latin American policy unique and different from other dimensions of its foreign policy. It is what we have called the ‘Ibero-Americanism’ of foreign policy in general and of Spain’s Latin American policy in particular (Arenal 2004a, pp. 6-7).
All Spanish governments since the 19th century have been fully aware of this specificity, although they have put into practice very different Latin American policies, depending on the different scenarios, their ideological perspective and the policies and objectives that inspired their foreign policy. This specificity partly explains one of the most significant features of Latin American policy –one with negative effects–: the special attention that has traditionally been given by all governments, regardless of their political stripe, to the Ibero-American or global dimension of their relationship with Latin America, and the relatively little attention that has been given to bilateral relations with Latin American countries (Malamud 2004).
Since the early days of the transition to democracy, first the centrist governments of Adolfo Suárez, then the socialist governments of Felipe González, with varying degrees of success, tried to develop an active, leading and relatively independent role for Spain in their Latin American policies. This contributed decisively to strengthening Spain’s presence in the region and improving Spain’s international image. These policies always set out to reaffirm the relative limits to the autonomous action available to a power like Spain in its international affairs (Arenal 1994). This search for independence was always supported, especially during the Socialist governments, by the European dimension of foreign policy, while US policy toward the region always acted as a conditioning factor that reduced the limits of independent action for Spain.
The result of all this was that Spain’s Latin American policy was –and still is– deeply marked by the contradictions between Ibero-Americanism and Europeanism on one hand, and between Ibero-Americanism and the trans-Atlantic alliance on the other. The solution to these two contradictions, based on the priorities given to each aspect of each one, has been decisive in Spain’s Latin American policy, particularly affecting the dynamics of the Ibero-American summits which, as we indicated, are the highest expression of Ibero-Americanism.
The Latin American policy of the Aznar government
The Latin American policy put into effect by the Aznar government can be understood only in the context of that government’s shift in foreign policy, which became clear from 2002. This new model, characterised by the break in consensus, the absolute priority given to the trans-Atlantic relationship (expressed in unconditional alignment with the Bush administration), the weakening of the European dimension, the loss of independence in Mediterranean and Latin America policies and the weakening of multilateralism and of the primacy of international law (Arenal 2004b, pp. 73-78), naturally had a decisive effect on Spain’s Latin American policy at all levels and in all regards, with particular impact, as we will see, on the regional or specifically Ibero-American level, that is, on Spain’s policy on the Ibero-American summits.
When the Aznar government came to power in 1996, the Latin American policy that had been followed until then changed radically. This was made clear in the policy towards Cuba and, in 2002, in the formal, unconditional alignment with the Bush administration. By acting in coordination with the United States and appearing to act as a spokesman for the US administration in Latin America, Spain lost the relative independence and distinctiveness that its Latin American policy had had until then. Spanish interests became identified with those of the Bush administration and Spain’s image in the region deteriorated (Arenal 2003a). The most significant public manifestations of this new policy were in relations with Mexico and Chile, as a result of the pressures Spain put on them to align themselves in the United Nations Security Council with the Bush administration’s positions on Iraq. This, and other issues, led to a loss of harmony and political profile in bilateral relations with some of the main Latin American countries. There were negative effects on Latin American policy itself, on Spain’s image in the region and on the development and functioning of the Ibero-American summits.
This change in Latin American policy was not explained to Latin American countries, nor did they understand it. All were disconcerted and most were distrustful, failing to see any sense or reason in the policy.
Since 1986, the contradiction had already existed between Europeanism and Ibero-Americanism. This was hard enough to overcome, but now there was an added and heightened contradiction between trans-Atlanticism and Ibero-Americanism. The solution was to grant all priority to the former, resulting in Spain’s Latin American policy definitively losing sense of its own direction and its distinctive features. Spain’s image was beginning to fade in Latin America.
At the specifically Ibero-American level, this alignment with the United States in Latin America contributed to diminishing the Latin American perception of the sense and usefulness of the Ibero-American summits. Spain’s image and interest in the summits became more identified with those of the United States than with those of Spain and Europe. This reduced the value of the multilateral Ibero-American mechanism to which Spain and Portugal had until then contributed their own distinctive features, which had given sense to the Ibero-American summits (Arenal 2003b, p. 33).
The radical change that Aznar introduced into Latin American policy was also accompanied –at the level of the Ibero-American summits– by the affirmation of unilateral hegemonic leadership (Arenal 2004a, pp. 17-19), which simply reflected this unilateralism and the broken consensus on foreign policy that had occurred in Spain. Aznar shifted from the multilateral hegemonic leadership that his administration had practiced since 1996, based on the search for harmony and consensus with the main Latin America countries, to unilateral action, putting into practice a policy that brought a series of faits accomplis to the summits.
The Aznar government thus began taking unilateral hegemonic action at the Ibero-American summits, specifically at the Bávaro summit (Dominican Republic) in November 2002, and at Santa Cruz de la Sierra (Bolivia) in November 2003. This consisted of unilaterally presenting proposals without trying to reach prior consensus and agreement. This policy had negative effects in terms of the interest and usefulness of the summits for Latin American countries, some of whom felt that the already strongly Spanish character of the summits was being accentuated to intolerable extremes.
The most important expression of this unilateral hegemonic leadership was the proposal to reform the summits –practically from the ground up– presented by Aznar at the Bávaro summit. This was done unilaterally and without prior notice or any attempt to reach a prior consensus with other Latin American countries, thus breaking what had been Spain’s traditional line of action at the Ibero-American summits since they began in 1991. The proposal, presented directly at the meeting of the heads of state and of government, was ratified thanks to the climate of cordiality that existed at the political level. However, some of the largest Latin American countries were very reluctant to go along with it. This reluctance showed up later in the context of the meetings of national coordinators of certain Latin American countries who negotiated watering down the specific terms of the reform, and in the attitude of these coordinators to the San José summit.
Another factor that contributed to this reluctant attitude, especially among certain small Latin American countries that had not organised Ibero-American summits, was Aznar’s invitation at Santa Cruz de la Sierra for the 15th summit to be held in Spain in 2005, commemorating the 30th anniversary of the reign of King Juan Carlos I. With this new initiative, which skipped the tacitly established order of the summits, Aznar was attempting, like in the other initiatives mentioned above, to strengthen Spain’s role and enhance the dynamics of the Ibero-American summits, which were showing clear signs of losing steam.
This context of unilateral Spanish action at the summits and alignment with the Bush administration in relations with Latin America also explains the increasing lack of mutual comprehension between Aznar and some of the main Latin American leaders, which had a negative impact on relations between Spain and certain Latin American countries with particular political weight in the region.
Aznar’s Latin America policy which, as we have seen, had negative effects on bilateral relations and on the dynamics of the Ibero-American summits, certainly had a role in many Latin American countries losing interest in the summits. This explains, in part, the low political profile and some of the absences that characterised the 14th summit, held in San José, Costa Rica, on November 19-20, 2004.
The Latin American policy of the Rodríguez Zapatero government
Although, as we have seen, Aznar’s Latin America policy largely explains the relatively low profile of the San José summit, we must not lose sight of the responsibility that also corresponds to the transitional period that began after the Spanish national elections of March 14, 2004, and to the new Latin American policy put into action by the Socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, which won the election.
First of all, it is clear that any change in government derived from an electoral process brings with it a period of transition from one government to another that may negatively affect some of a country’s foreign policies, due partly to changes in diplomatic staff, but mostly to political changes. These effects can be even greater if a change in government is accompanied by a radical shift in foreign policy and a redefinition of the priorities that characterise a country’s foreign relations. In this case, Spain’s focus shifted instantly from trans-Atlantic concerns to European ones.
In the specific case of Spain’s Latin American policy, there is no doubt that this transitional period coincided with a key moment in the Ibero-American summits, as we have mentioned, and had negative effects on them. This was especially clear at the important meetings of national coordinators held in San José in April 2004, with an acting Popular government, and in May 2005, with a recently-constituted Socialist government. Both governments had a hand in establishing the final terms of the founding convention of the Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB), as well as the General Secretariat’s statutes, and Spain’s role was of a lower profile than usual.
Second, –and here the responsibility falls directly on the Socialist government– it seems clear that in practice the necessary special attention was not given to the bilateral and European dimensions of Latin America policy; nor was the San José summit prepared until it was about to happen. The general declarations made both by the Spanish president and by his minister of Foreign Affairs shortly after forming the new government –regarding the new approaches that would characterise Latin American policy, as well as certain specific initiatives announced by Rodríguez Zapatero, which would give a significant social twist to this policy– were not sufficiently accompanied by diplomatic action aimed at bringing them to fruition.
The need felt by the Rodríguez Zapatero government to urgently materialise the change in foreign policy –particularly the withdrawal of Spain’s armed forces from Iraq, the abandonment of unconditional alignment with the Bush administration, a higher priority for European issues (especially relations with France and Germany) and the reestablishment of a friendly, cooperative relationship with Morocco (Arenal 2004c)– made it difficult to give the relationship with Latin America the special attention it required after the damage caused by Aznar’s policy. In addition, the Foreign Affairs ministry was giving preferential attention to relations with Europe (as the European Constitution looms on the horizon), to the Western Sahara issue and to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this context we can understand that –beyond words and certain significant gestures– it was difficult to truly articulate a consistent, active Latin American policy in the early months of the Socialist government.
This had negative effects on the San José summit, which was held only seven months after the government was formed. It was a context very negatively conditioned by the Aznar policy, as we have explained, and thus very unfavourable for the multilateral dynamics of the summits.
The Socialist government, therefore, did not pay sufficient attention in its first months to this essential dimension of Spanish foreign policy –Latin American policy– and did not attend to preparing the San José summit in order to guarantee its overall success. This is similar to what occurred when the summits were held in small countries with relatively unprofessional diplomatic structures. This fact is even more significant considering that it was Rodríguez Zapatero’s first summit.
Special attention was finally given to the San José summit shortly before it was actually held, thereby avoiding the absence of especially significant figures, such as the president of Argentina, Nestor Kirchner (accomplished through the personal intervention of King Juan Carlos I) and the president of Mexico, Vicente Fox (through the personal intervention of Rodríguez Zapatero). However, this was not sufficient to re-establish the political profile that has generally characterised previous summits.
Of course, this in no way excludes Costa Rica’s diplomacy from the main responsibility for preparing the summit or for the relative failure of the summit in terms of high-level attendance. As the organiser, Costa Rica was the country most responsible for this. Nonetheless, Spain remains responsible, given its leading role and special interest in the summits since the very beginning.
The growing lack of interest in the Ibero-American summits among Latin America countries
As we indicated earlier, the second factor explaining the absence of a number of Latin American leaders from the San José summit involves the ever-diminishing interest in the Ibero-American summits in Latin America.
The interest that Latin American countries expressed in the first summits in the early 90s has been fading since then. The Ibero-American summits started out successfully in a new international scene marked by the end of the Cold War and bipolar power. This suggested a new era of international relations and the configuration of a new world order, making it necessary for countries to find a new and firmer place in this new international order.
This scenario –combined with the recent membership of Spain and Portugal in the European Community, the still undeveloped diplomacy of the summit and the need felt by Latin American countries to diversify their international relations– significantly helped spark initial interest in the summits among Latin American countries, who saw them as a way of strengthening their international relations.
Their interest, however, declined continuously as the turn of the century approached –as a result of the changes on the world scene, on the Latin American scene and in the relations between Spain and Latin America, as discussed above– reaching its lowest point in the first years of the new century.
It is clear, on the one hand, that the diversification of Latin America’s international relations through the 1990s –especially with Europe and the Asia-Pacific region– and the consequent duplication of effort at the Ibero-American summits, has considerably eroded Latin America’s sense of the meaning and usefulness of the summits in the current international context. The proliferation of summits with the main international players, hemispheric summits with the United States and the prospect of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), European Union-Latin America summits and the horizons opened by the APEC association agreements and summits, all of which focus on top-priority political and economic issues, had a necessarily negative impact on the dynamic of the summits.
On the other hand, it is clear that the common interests of the countries participating in the Ibero-American summits –especially at the political and cultural levels– were weak from the start and of relatively little importance in terms of the political and economic problems and issues that most interested those countries, given the limitations set by the membership of Spain and Portugal in the European Union and the membership of Latin American countries in various mechanisms for economic integration and cooperation in the Americas.
There is no doubt that, in practice, the summits have proved themselves unable to deal with the divergence of economic interests between Spain and Portugal and Latin American countries, resulting from the membership of the former in the European Union, and that this has significantly weakened Latin American interest. The contradiction between the Ibero-American and the European focus of Spain’s Latin American policy has proved difficult to overcome thus far, not only in substance, but also in form. This undoubtedly has also contributed to lessening Latin American interest in the Ibero-American summits. This has been especially clear since the European Union-Latin America summits were established, making it possible for Latin American countries to jointly tackle their issues with the European Union.
It has also been clear from the start that the practical operational capacity of the summits –beyond setting up a series of Ibero-American cooperation programmes and coming to political agreements on certain international issues– was hardly relevant in terms of the main problems and challenges facing Latin America.
Finally, two other factors explain the scarce interest of Latin American countries in the Ibero-American summits. On the one hand, Spain has played the leading role in the summits from the start, and especially in recent years, as a result of the unilateral hegemonic leadership established by the Aznar government starting in 2002. This has increased the already existing reluctance of Latin American countries to take part in the summits. On the other hand, unconditional alignment with the Bush administration, as we have mentioned, has reduced the distinctive features of the Ibero-American summits, thus reducing Latin American interest in them.
This loss of interest in the summits on the part of Latin American countries is clear from the absence of top-level leaders, not only at the San José summit, but also at earlier ones, for example, the ninth summit, held in Havana in 1999. Five Latin American leaders were absent there (Argentina, Costa Rica, Chile, El Salvador and Nicaragua), although the fact that the summit was held in Cuba was a determining factor.
Let us consider, however, the absences from the San José summit, these being the ones that suggest that the summit was a failure. In any case, they demonstrate the lack of interest in Latin American countries.
In the case of Chile, although the absence of Ricardo Lagos can be explained by his role as organiser and host of the APEC summit, it must be borne in mind that Chile did not hesitate to organise it on practically the same dates as the San José summit, even though the dates for the latter had already been set. This shows Chile’s lack of interest in the Ibero-American summit, and the country’s reluctance to participate, which was heightened by Aznar’s unilateral hegemonic leadership at the previous Ibero-American summits. In the case of Brazil, the absence of Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva was justified by Vladimir Putin’s visit to the country, followed by the Brazilian leader’s presence at the APEC summit. This was clearly a question of scheduling and defining priorities. In the case of Peru, the absence of Alejandro Toledo can also be explained by his presence at the APEC summit, once again demonstrating a lack interest in the Ibero-American summits.
The presidents of Argentina (Nestor Kirchner) and of Mexico (Vicente Fox) were present –though in some cases briefly– at the San José summit, before going on to attend the APEC summit in Santiago, demonstrating that all this was a question of scheduling, and of sensitivity to and interest in the dynamics of the Ibero-American summits.
Other absences were different: the president of Ecuador, Lucio Gutiérrez, was involved in impeachment proceedings in his country for alleged misuse of public funds; Fidel Castro was recovering from an accident he suffered last October; the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, who had already missed other Ibero-American summits, had to remain in his country as a result of the attack on the prosecutor of the trial against the opposition leaders who supported the coup in 2002; and the president of Portugal, Jorge Sampaio, was ill, while the Portuguese prime minister, Pedro Santana Lopes, was deeply involved in the budget debate in his country.
For the reasons we have explained, a large number of factors converged at the summit in Costa Rica that explain its low political profile, despite its important achievements at the institutional level. These factors are a clear expression of the scant interest felt in Latin America, of the breakdown in the dynamics of the summits and of the delicate situation in which the summit system now finds itself.
The low profile of the San José summit was accentuated even further by the contrast with the success of the 3rd International Conference on the Spanish Language, held in Rosario (Argentina), attended by the King and Queen of Spain, and with the extensive media coverage of the Asia-Pacific Forum for Economic Cooperation (APEC), held in Santiago (Chile) and attended by some of the most important Latin American leaders, practically at the same time as the Ibero-American summit.
The process of creating the Ibero-American General Secretariat and its possible influence on the dynamic of the summits
The San José summit highlighted the fact that the Ibero-American summits are going through an especially critical time, but it is also clear that, paradoxically, the same summit saw a very significant qualitative leap forward in the process of institutionalising and strengthening the summits. The summit’s unanimous support for the creation of the SEGIB through the Santa Cruz de la Sierra Agreement, and the approval of the General Secretariat’s Statute are of special relevance from the standpoint of the dynamics of the summits.
At this delicate juncture, future prospects for the summits are beginning to look favourable. Spain has a particular responsibility, not only in terms of support, but especially as organiser of the next summit in Salamanca, in October 2005.
This process will culminate with the appointment of the Ibero-American General Secretary at the next plenary meeting of Foreign Affairs ministers, to be held in Portugal in the first half of 2005.
As we have mentioned, this process, which sets out to put the summits back on their feet, was initiated mainly by the Aznar government.
The starting point was the proposal to create the Secretariat for Ibero-American Cooperation (SECIB), which was a Spanish initiative previously worked out with some of the main Latin American countries and agreed to at the Ibero-American summit in Oporto in 1998. Its protocol and statutes were ratified at the Havana summit in 1999 and operations began out of its Madrid headquarters in 2000. The SECIB, set up to coordinate Ibero-American cooperation, soon extended its reach into areas not originally planned. In its short life, it has carried out important political work representing the summits.
The Ibero-American summit at Bávaro (2002)
The current process, however, begins at the Bávaro summit, held on November 15-16, 2002, where Aznar presented a new proposal to reform the summits, in a qualitative leap that meant practically re-founding them. This proposal included generating greater internal cohesion, more effective cooperation, greater international presence and greater political strength at the institutional level, by raising the level of the SECIB to that of a General Secretariat (SEGIB). However, although this new proposal was both appropriate and absolutely necessary to prevent the eventual failure of the summits, it was clouded by the unilateralism and secrecy in which Aznar developed it without any attempt to come to consensus or agreement with other Latin American countries.
This new strategy put in motion by Aznar did indeed enable it to be passed without problems at the meeting of the heads of state and government. It is not certain that this would have been possible if it had been negotiated previously. However, it significantly weakened the subsequent negotiating process by heightening the already existing reluctance of some countries to the creation of a SEGIB and to Spain’s leading role.
Furthermore, without reaching a consensus with other Latin American countries (particularly with Mexico, surprised by the initiative when it had until then been one the main supporters of Spanish initiatives), Aznar entrusted Fernando Henrique Cardoso (who shortly after left his position as President of Brazil) with the presidency of a new working group that was to reflect on the specific measures and initiatives to be adopted. The group presented its conclusions at the Santa Cruz de la Sierra summit in November 2003.
Aznar’s proposal to reform the summits, approved in Bávaro and characterised by its hegemonic unilateralism, undoubtedly reflected the strategic turn that Spanish foreign policy was taking at the time. This was a result of its unconditional alignment with the Bush administration and also of Aznar’s new conviction that Spain was now among the large international powers and had become a world leader that could unilaterally set the agenda for the Ibero-American summits.
The dynamic adopted by Cardoso in the Commission’s formation and operations did nothing to help moderate the already existing reluctance of other countries, but rather increased it. Although the Commission had not initially been set up to represent governments, this ended up being how its role was interpreted. As a result, the fact that it had no Central American, Andean or Caribbean members raised new questions and increased the initial reluctance to strengthening the summits institutionally.
The report prepared by the Cardoso Commission was presented in October 2003 at a special meeting of Foreign Affairs ministers in Estoril (Portugal), held specifically to deal with this issue. However, after the report was presented, there was practically no discussion of its substance. As a result, the report reached the summit of heads of state and government almost without discussion, since at the meeting of the national coordinators at the Santa Cruz de la Sierra summit, the text of the report had never really been discussed, nor had any consensus on it been expressly sought.
This secrecy reveals that the Spanish government, which feared that the report would get bogged down in diplomatic negotiations, deliberately set out to ensure that it would not be discussed until the meeting of heads of state and government, where there would be less opposition.
The most important proposal of the Cardoso report, from the standpoint of strengthening the summits —a clear result, in this case, of the Spanish initiative— was the creation of a SEGIB aimed at strengthening and bringing cohesion to the Ibero-American community and its international relations. The SEGIB was an important qualitative step forward, raising the profile and political functions of the summits, as well as increasing their visibility and efficiency.
The Ibero-American summit at Santa Cruz de la Sierra (2003)
The Cardoso report and, specifically, the creation of the SEGIB, were presented for approval, as planned, at the Santa Cruz de la Sierra summit held November 14-15, 2003. The growing reluctance of Latin American countries to go along with this was quite understandable.
Their concerns focused mainly on the patent lack of discussion with which the report had been prepared and on certain aspects of the proposal that seemed to give Spain a leading role in the future General Secretariat. The political function of the Secretariat and an increase in spending and bureaucracy were other concerns expressed. In the end, their discontent, already present, increased considerably as a result of the Aznar government’s policy of following the lead of the Bush administration and because of its unilateral approach to the Ibero-American summits. This very quickly took a toll on the dynamics that led to the set-up of the SEGIB.
Nevertheless, despite the reluctance shown, the meeting of heads of state and government unanimously approved the report creating the Secretariat. Significantly, it was Aznar, not Cardoso, who cleared up certain questions related to the SEGIB. The most controversial specific issues that had to be explained were to the effect that the SEGIB would not represent the foreign policy of the Ibero-American community, would not mean more bureaucracy and spending and that the Secretary General would under no circumstances be Spanish.
Relations between Aznar and certain Latin American leaders reached their highest point of tension at this summit. This was especially clear in Mexico’s sudden and senseless withdrawal, and in Aznar’s solemn expression in the summit photo, standing between the King and President Fox.
Despite the significant reduction in the political content to be handled by the SEGIB (compared to the initial proposal), the Santa Cruz de la Sierra summit was a political success for José María Aznar. In his final summit as Spanish Prime Minister, he achieved at least part of one of his most ambitious goals at the Ibero-American level.
After insufficient Spanish negotiations and a certain amount of improvisation by Bolivia, and despite the existing reluctance, the heads of state and government signed the ‘Santa Cruz de la Sierra Agreement’. This was a kind of framework agreement that established the basic points that would inspire the process for creating the SEGIB. The details would be left for subsequent negotiations. The Cardoso report was added as an appendix containing a proposal for an agreement. The Agreement establishes that the acting secretariat for Bolivia and the acting secretariat for Costa Rica, upon taking up their duties, would receive suggestions from the governments “regarding the definition of the functions and powers of the General Secretariat, in order for its Statutes to be ratified at the 14th Ibero-American summit to be held in San José, Costa Rica, in 2004”.
It was therefore agreed that the functions of the SEGIB –the main issue in question– would be established in the SEGIB statute, approval of which would be left for the San José summit in November 2004, in order to leave more time for diplomatic negotiations and to give member states a chance to make suggestions.
An attempt was made after the fact to compensate for the lack of participation of Latin American countries in the preparation of the conclusions of the Cardoso report, by opening negotiations at the meetings of national coordinators. At these two meetings (an ordinary one in April 2004 and an extraordinary one in May) held in San José, Costa Rica, the political profile of the SEGIB was reduced significantly, as were the powers of the General Secretariat, at the insistence of some Latin American countries, especially Cuba, Venezuela and Mexico, which, for different reasons, were trying to make Aznar pay a price for taking a unilateral approach and following the lead of the Bush administration. This reduction was also largely due, as we have pointed out, to the low profile of the Spanish delegations to these meetings, the first one sent by an acting government, and the second one by a recently-established government.
The substantial reduction in the political profile of the summits is absolutely clear when the proposal that accompanied the Santa Cruz Agreement and the final text of this Agreement establishing the SEGIB, are compared with the Statute of the General Secretariat, after the revisions and renegotiations that took place at the two meetings of the national coordinators.
These are the main points that reveal how the negotiations scaled things down:
(a) Functions of the SEGIB. While the initial proposal establishes, among other things, fomenting political and institutional dialogue, as well as cooperation between member states (Article 3), the final text of the SEGIB statute simply states that its mission is to provide “institutional support, in close coordination with the acting secretariat, to the summit of heads of state and government and to other bodies of the Ibero-American Conference” (Article 3). For its part, all the functions detailed in Article 2 of the Statute correspond to those of a body supporting the acting secretariat, as indicated above. As a result, the negotiations eliminated the limited political functions attributed to the SEGIB, along with any hint of political independence that could be derived from its functions. Its role was reduced, as stated in the Statute, to that of a “permanent body providing institutional, technical, and administrative support to the Ibero-American Conference” (Article 2).
(b) Permanent Coordinating Committee. The initial proposal, following the usual procedures of international organisations, included the creation of a Permanent Coordinating Committee, made up either of ambassadors of member states accredited in the country where the SEGIB had it headquarters, or of the national coordinators, who would meet monthly, then extraordinarily. The function of this Committee, in addition to monitoring instructions from the summit and from the meeting of Foreign ministers was to “examine questions raised by any of its members” (Article 5). It was to be, therefore, a highly political body that would provide visibility and continuity to the process of harmonising Ibero-American policy and, consequently, helping the Ibero-American summits to act in an ongoing way, speaking with their own voice on the world scene. This political body disappeared in the final, approved text. With it, the summits lost a key mechanism for enhancing their operational capacity as an international player.
(c) Deputy Secretaries. The proposal included the creation of two “Deputy General Secretaries” (Third Transitional Order), who in the final text simply became a “Deputy Secretary” and a “Secretary for Ibero-American Cooperation” (Article 5 of the Agreement) –no longer “general” in nature–. As we have indicated, the purpose of this was to eliminate any hint of political profile from these posts.
(d) Entry into force of the Agreement and its amendments. Finally, as a result of the negotiations, it was made significantly more difficult for the Agreement to enter into force. Rather than the five countries needed to ratify it under the initial proposal (Second Transitory Order), seven were required in the final approved text (Article 10). By contrast, it was made easier to introduce amendments. Rather than the five member states originally required (Article 9), any member state could present one (Article 11).
The result of these negotiations was that the final text of the Santa Cruz de la Sierra Agreement, which established the SEGIB, described an international body that certainly increased the operational capacity of the summits, as compared to the SECIB. However, it significantly reduced their political scope and power, as compared to the initial proposals of the Cardoso report, due to the reluctance of some Latin American states, as we have explained.
The most outstanding of the goals established for the SEGIB is that of “contributing to strengthening the Ibero-American community and guaranteeing it an international role” (Article 2). The headquarters of the SEGIB, which to all effects took the place of the SECIB (Second Transitional Order), were established in Madrid (Article 1).
The Ibero-American summit at San José de Costa Rica (2004)
The San José summit was held in Costa Rica on November 19-20, 2004, in the particular context we have explained, of Latin American policies developed first by Aznar and then by Rodríguez Zapatero, of lack of interest and reluctance on the part of many Latin American countries and of a qualitative step toward the institutionalisation of the Ibero-American summits through the creation of the SEGIB.
This was a summit marked, as we have seen and explained, by the absence of some important Ibero-American leaders –a fact that largely spoiled the summit and contributed to the sensation that their life may have been coming to an end–.
Some of the absences were explicable and attributable to larger forces; others were not, involving questions of priorities and, in some cases, agendas. In any case, because of these absences, the tension and radical confrontation that characterises Spanish domestic politics spilled into an area of foreign policy that until then had fortunately remained immune to partisan struggles: the Ibero-American summits. The Popular Party, through personal intervention by its General Secretary, Mariano Rajoy, used the San José summit to attack the Rodríguez Zapatero government and highlight the ‘failure’ of its foreign policy –specifically its Latin America policy–, by saying that ‘nobody who’s anybody went’ to the summit. Such partisan use of a summit was new, showing how willing the Popular Party has been to use political tension as a strategy. This situation raises serious questions about the need to consider the dynamics of the Ibero-American summits (now in delicate condition) as state politics, above partisan interests, and about the chances that in the short term, or even the medium term, the urgently-needed consensus on foreign policy can be achieved. It is clear that as along as there is a continued political struggle over the main lines of Spanish foreign policy, it will be difficult to guarantee the success of the Salamanca summit in October 2005.
In any case, it is an overstatement to say that because the San José summit was a failure, therefore the Latin America policy of the Rodríguez Zapatero government is also a failure. The lower political profile of the summit, apart from some justifiable absences, was attributable in part to the growing discontent and reluctance to participate in the Latin America policy that Aznar had been following for the past two years, and to the resulting withdrawal of some Latin American countries from the summit process that was not very interesting and was identifiable with Spain, which had been acting hegemonically and unilaterally.
The transition period from the Popular government to the Socialist government and the lower level of attention given in practice by the Rodríguez Zapatero government to Latin American policy certainly had a negative impact on the San José summit. Nevertheless, the summit enabled the Socialist government to restore a positive climate of political cooperation with some Latin American countries, something that had been broken as a result of Aznar’s Latin American policy.
Though brief, the presence at the summit of the Mexican president, Vicente Fox, was an opportunity to reaffirm that country’s commitment to the Ibero-American summit process, re-establishing joint action with Spain –action that has been and may continue to be essential to consolidate this multilateral Ibero-American mechanism–. We must bear in mind that because Aznar had acted unilaterally and followed the lead of the Bush administration, as we have mentioned, Mexico had gone from being one of the cornerstones of the summits to being one of the countries that put up the most obstacles to the creation of a strong and politically operative SEGIB. Also, the attendance of the president of Argentina, Nestor Kirchner, who initially did not plan to be present, must be interpreted as a demonstration of political harmony with Rodríguez Zapatero’s Latin American policy and as support for the summit reform process.
Certainly the most significant result of the San José summit was the passing of the SEGIB Statute, in accordance with the agreement made at the Santa Cruz de la Sierra summit, despite the fact that the Statute had far less political profile than Spain had wanted and considerably less than had been stated in the Cardoso report.
As we have seen, this is clear in the functions attributed to the SEGIB, all of which are expressly subordinate to the institutional structure of the Ibero-American summits, with practically no possibility of even minimal political independence.
In any case, the creation of the SEGIB is a very important step forward on the road toward revitalisation. It significantly strengthens the operational capacity of the summits through a structure consisting of a General Secretariat, a Deputy Secretary, and a Secretary for Ibero-American Cooperation, and as a permanent body provides the summits with greater political visibility.
There is no doubt that, in the end, regardless of the functions established in the Statute, the real political profile of the SEGIB will be determined by the personality and goals of the person appointed as General Secretary. It appears almost certain that this will be the current president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Enrique Iglesias, who was present at the San José summit. If so, this will undoubtedly give the SEGIB a high political profile. His appointment, along with those of the Deputy Secretary and the of the Secretary for Ibero-American Cooperation, is to be made at the plenary meeting of Foreign Affairs ministers, to be held in Portugal in the first half of 2005.
While approving the SEGIB Statute, the San José summit continued the traditional role of the summits as a forum for political harmonisation and multilateral Ibero-American cooperation, approving a final declaration and a long series of special communiqués that differed in some small ways from past summits.
Two novelties were particularly significant: first, following a recommendation of the Cardoso report, the length and rhetorical weight of the final declaration was reduced in comparison to the excesses of previous summits, making the San José Declaration much more specific and precise in terms of reaffirming principles and commitments; and, secondly, there was greater emphasis on the social issues and problems that characterise modern societies around the world. This was a result of the new interest in social issues shown by many Latin American governments and which also characterises the foreign policy —and specifically the Latin American policy— of the Rodríguez Zapatero government.
More specifically, in the final declaration, the summit stated its commitment to: strengthening multilateralism among Latin American countries; respecting international law and, therefore, respecting the sovereignty and legal equality of states; the principle of non-intervention; prohibiting the threat or use of force, and respecting territorial integrity; solving disputes peacefully; and protecting and promoting human rights. All this established distance between the summit and the international policy of the Bush administration.
A commitment was also made to supporting a broad and comprehensive reform of the United Nations, to enable this body to effectively achieve its goals and act in accordance with its principles. However, no specific proposals were made, due to the conflicting positions of Brazil and Mexico regarding the enlargement of the Security Council.
A commitment was also made to help achieve the goals of the Millennium Declaration and the Monterrey Consensus on Financing for Development, to set up a more equitable multilateral trade system and to work for the success of the Doha Development Agenda. The summit also supported the ‘New York Declaration on Action against Hunger and Poverty’, supporting the activities of the Group of Four (Brazil, Chile, France and Spain), and committing itself to preparing an Ibero-American agenda to fight against hunger and extreme poverty.
Once again, there was explicit rejection of the unilateral and extraterritorial application of laws and measures contrary to international law, such as the Helms-Burton Act, which the US government was encouraged to drop.
As has generally been the case, the Declaration put particular emphasis on Ibero-American cooperation as the cornerstone of the process of building the common Ibero-American space which, it is hoped, will be boosted by the creation of the SEGIB. Regarding this, in addition to making reference to the 18 Ibero-American cooperation programmes now underway, a commitment was made to search for additional sources of financing and to the participation of other social actors. Developed countries were called upon to meet their commitments to allocate 0.7% of their gross domestic product to official development aid. This is an especially interesting point, as it touches on a growing concern among Latin American countries, who find themselves being overlooked in development cooperation because of their status as middle-income countries, despite the enormous inequalities in the distribution of wealth within their borders. The special communiqué on development cooperation with middle-income countries calls on developed countries and international bodies to increase their cooperation with countries in this situation.
The theme of the summit was ‘Educating for Progress’, so a large part of the San José Declaration focuses on this issue and encourages increased Ibero-American cooperation on education.
In this regard, there was a wide-ranging and novel proposal to exchange a percentage of debt servicing for investment in educational systems. There will be an international conference in Spain in 2005, where an attempt will be made to put this into practice. The idea, launched a year ago by Argentina’s education minister, Daniel Filmus (Malamud and Mallo 2004), had already been presented by Rodríguez Zapatero in his intervention before the General Assembly of the United Nations in September 2004, and was immediately echoed at the San José summit.
Another of the noteworthy special communiqués issued by the summit restates the request made at the Bávaro and Santa Cruz de la Sierra summits, for Spain and Portugal to inform the competent authorities of the European Union of Latin America’s concern and opposition to certain aspects of the Common Agricultural Policy, specifically the subsidies for the production and exportation of agricultural and agro-industrial products that seriously affect the economies of Latin American countries.
The communiqué on Haiti is also significant in that, for the first time, the summits took direct interest in the process of stabilising and rebuilding a non-Ibero-American country, thus demonstrating their will to help solve Haiti’s problems of security and violence, and to help with the country’s political, economic and social development. This is an especially significant step forward in the area of Ibero-American military cooperation, setting a precedent for a possible Ibero-American peace force (in fact, this has already been partly put into practice through the large presence of different Ibero-American armed forces in the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti –MINUSTAH–, promoted by Brazil and Chile, with the participation of 200 Spanish military personnel).
Before Rodríguez Zapatero suggested the idea of an Ibero-American peace force that could act in cases of international crisis under the auspices of the United Nations, Aznar had already considered this under a different light, proposing that the armed forces of Spain, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua could participate in the Plus Ultra Brigade that Spain had deployed in Iraq.
Another of the significant special communiqués was one that supported the ‘Alliance of Civilisations’ proposed by Rodríguez Zapatero at the last General Assembly of the United Nations, calling on the UN Secretary General to establish a high-level group to begin work on this. The Ibero-American community’s support of this proposal significantly reinforces its implementation.
The condemnation of and fight against terrorism has traditionally been present at the Ibero-American summits. At the time of the Aznar government, there had been tension with Cuba because of its unwillingness to expressly denounce ETA terrorism. This was once again the subject of a special communiqué and the Cuban regime was once again involved. Tension was heightened by Cuba’s demand that there be an express condemnation of the pardon granted by the former president of Panama, Mireya Moscoso, to four terrorists accused of preparing an attack against Fidel Castro during the 10th Ibero-American summit in Panama in 2000, but in the end Spanish mediation led to an agreed solution. Specifically, Ibero-America reaffirmed its commitment to cooperate in all areas and manifestations of the fight against terrorism. However, –and this was emphasised in order to clearly differentiate the Ibero-American approach from that of others– the fight would have to be strictly in accordance with international law, international standards on the protection of human rights and international humanitarian law. At the same time, the Cuban petition was dealt with in line with the position of the current Panamanian government of Martin Torrijos: the liberation of the four terrorists by the former Panamanian government was repudiated, but without mentioning the former government leaders by name.
A final significant special communiqué was one supporting the Ibero-American Network for Judicial Cooperation, established in late October 2004 in Cartagena de Indias, at the meeting of Ibero-American justice officials. It was expressly stated that this network was established to build an Ibero-American space characterised by freedom, justice, and security.
There is no doubt that the clearly social profile of the San José Declaration, as we have seen, reflects the priorities not only of many Latin American leaders, but also the new social focus of the Latin American policy implemented by the Rodríguez Zapatero government.
Another significant achievement at this summit was to approve Andorra as a new member. This new dynamic, opening the possibility of other new members, had been considered in the Cardoso report, which expressly stated the requirements that new members must meet: sovereign states belonging geographically to Ibero-America, with Portuguese or Spanish as official languages. Andorra’s entry, which meets these criteria, had two conditions: The first is that it must be represented by its head of government and not by its heads of state or co-princes, the President of France and the Bishop of Urgell. The second is that it must observe the cultural norms of the summits, meaning that it must participate in Spanish or Portuguese.
Specifically in terms of political harmonisation, as had been the case in previous summits, this one enabled Ibero-American countries to take common positions, harmonise their action on certain international and internal issues that affect them, and solve some of the controversies among members. In addition to our summary of some of the special communiqués, we would also highlight: the communiqué supporting Saragossa’s candidacy to host the International Exhibition in 2008; the meeting of Central American presidents, which ratified the candidacy of the former president of El Salvador for the post of Secretary General of the Organisation of American States; and the progress made toward rapprochement between Cuba and Panama, which will soon enable full diplomatic relations to be re-established.
The challenge facing the Ibero-American summit in Salamanca in 2005
As we have seen, the Latin American policy followed by Spain in recent years, combined with waning interest among Latin American countries and the boost that has been given by the creation of the SEGIB, leave the summits in a contradictory and complex situation, putting their very future in jeopardy.
As the main promoter of the Ibero-American summits and the country responsible for organising the upcoming summit in Salamanca in October 2005, Spain has particular responsibility for their future. The type of policy Spain adopts for Latin America at the bilateral and regional levels, its leadership in terms of the current dynamics of the summits, and the specific steps it takes to guarantee the success of the Salamanca summit will largely determine whether the summit process regains its impetus and the interest of Latin American countries and, as a result, whether it can overcome the difficulties it has experienced in recent years.
The first challenge facing the Socialist government is unquestionably the need to articulate a new Latin America policy. This new policy must keep clear of unconditional alignments which negate the relative independence of the policy and which are always negative for Spain’s interests in Latin America. The new policy must have a global and comprehensive focus that takes into consideration all levels from the bilateral to the regional, as well as all stakeholders involved.
Although Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has in fact made several formal statements reiterating his intention to implement a Latin American policy based on consensus and a global outlook, no framework agreement for Latin America is yet in place, nor are there country plans that attend to the specifics of each of Latin American country.
The improved political harmony now existing between the Socialist government and the majority of Latin American countries is not enough, despite its importance both from the bilateral and Ibero-American standpoints. It is necessary to recover the high profile and the political intensity that once existed in the bilateral relations between Spain and Latin America countries, and this must respond to a framework agreement for Latin America that clearly and realistically defines the general goals and tools of this policy. Country plans must also establish the goals and tools at the bilateral level. As long as these plans are not defined and articulated in practice, Latin American policy will remain highly reactive at the bilateral level, and will fail to have a consistent impact at the regional or Ibero-American level –that is, on the dynamics of the Ibero-American summits–. It is clear that solid, global, and coherent bilateral policies contribute decisively to increasing the interest of Latin American countries in the Ibero-American summits.
The second challenge involves the leading role that Spain must take at the Ibero-American summits. We have already seen its decisive impact on their development and on the attitude of Latin American countries towards them. The Ibero-American summits cannot continue without a certain amount of Spanish leadership, but it is clearly necessary to abandon the policy of unilateral hegemonic leadership practiced by Aznar starting in 2002, given the negative effects we have seen. There is urgent need to articulate a policy of ‘shared leadership’ (Arenal 2004a, p. 27) with Portugal and some of the main Latin American countries on the dynamics of the Ibero-American summits. This will make it possible to consolidate and give operational capacity to the recently-created SEGIB, reduce Spanish dominance of the summits, and strengthen their dynamics.
Therefore, it is necessary to put into practice a strategy of shared leadership, based on an attempt to involve other Latin American countries in the workings of the summits by coming to agreements with them on how the summits should be developed. The relationships must be based on mutual confidence and common stances must be taken on international events and problems. Common interests must be emphasised at the political, economic, social, and cultural levels.
Through this new strategy, and in line with the new SEGIB, it is also necessary to consider the political nature and, consequently, the working agenda of the summits (Malamud and Mallo 2003). Until now, the summits have been a mechanism for dialogue, consensus, and multilateral cooperation. Despite occasionally introducing national interests and problems, they have avoided becoming a political mechanism that would generate problems in bilateral relations between member states.
Apart from generic declarations, with the exception of specific issues such as the condemnation of ETA terrorism or European agricultural protectionism, the summits had not specifically dealt with issues that member countries would find controversial, for example, emigration, drug trafficking, the WTO negotiations and relations with the United States. Although it is true that the trend in recent years, started by the Spanish government and immediately followed by Latin American governments, has been to gradually politicise the summits with national interests, this shift had never been formally proposed.
At the same time, while the working agenda of the summits is strengthened, it should also include new issues that until now have been left aside, but which are of special interest at the Ibero-American level, for example, the protection and promotion of the Spanish language in the world. The summits should be informed of the policies followed in these areas by member states and attempts should be made to implement specific joint action through existing national institutions, such as the Instituto Cervantes in Spain. The success of the recent International Conference on the Spanish Language, held in Rosario (Argentina) in November 2004, is the best argument in favour of this.
After the Salamanca summit, when the SEGIB has settled into its functions and can provide its support, the moment will have arrived to study this change that the summits have been imposing, with all the unknowns that this implies. Fully accepting these new realities would mean formalising a change of model, which would undoubtedly serve to boost the interest of participating countries.
Only through this new political approach will the summits really become a useful mechanism for Ibero-American political consensus from the Latin American perspective. With it, the summits will be perceived more as a common Ibero-American enterprise, increasing their interest to Latin American countries.
Finally, the third challenge involves how Spain organises the Salamanca summit. This will be a magnificent test of the real scope of the Socialist government’s Latin America policy, since the government’s intentions regarding Latin America will be present in how it organises the summit. Steps will also have to be taken to ensure the success of the summit as a cornerstone of Latin America policy.
In this regard, it will be necessary to revive the spirit that helped start up the Ibero-American summits in the early 90s, particularly the Madrid summit in 1992. The sense of challenge that the year 1992 presented in terms of Latin America policy –bringing with it deeper and more intense relations with Latin America at all levels and in all areas, aimed at reaching the target date in optimal conditions– must be recovered for the Salamanca summit in October 2005. A certain amount of ambition and political desire –far removed, of course, from hegemonic and unilateral approaches– must return to Latin American policy, so that it can fly high once off the ground.
Not only is it necessary at the political and diplomatic levels to guarantee that the summit is a success –a key goal that undoubtedly will be achieved after the experience of the San José summit– but full advantage must also be taken of the fact that the acting secretariat for the summits is in Spain, to accompany the summit with a series of political, social and cultural actions in Latin America and in Spain to make the summits more visible to Ibero-American societies, which until now have had little contact with them. These actions must be based on consensus with the main Ibero-American countries.
If the main goal of the summits is to progressively articulate a common Ibero-American space, we must begin to see that this is not only a political and diplomatic space, but also an economic, social, and cultural one, integrating these basic dimensions and their actors, as we have suggested, in the agenda of the summits.
As part of this task, the Spanish government should rely very heavily on the current SECIB, and then on the newly-founded SEGIB –a permanent expression of this common Ibero-American space– as a way of making this desire for consensus with other Latin American countries a reality and of reducing Spanish dominance of the Ibero-American summits.
The Spanish administration and particularly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have an enormous amount of work and responsibility in a year when the Euro-Mediterranean summit will also be held in Barcelona. However, it is essential to recover the political profile of Latin American policy and guarantee the revitalisation of Ibero-American summits as a multilateral Ibero-American mechanism of interest to all participating countries. However, in this regard, and particularly in relation to the success of the Salamanca summit, the Popular Party is no less responsible for returning to the idea that the key lines of Latin America policy are in fact state policy, leaving the summit outside the reach of partisan politics, and working willingly for its success.
Celestino del Arenal
Professor of International Relations at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid
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– Arenal, Celestino del (2003a), “Estados Unidos y la política latinoamericana de España”, Política Exterior, vol. XVII, nº 93, p. 183-193.
– Arenal, Celestino del (2003b), “La política española hacia América Latina en 2002”, Anuario Elcano.
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– Arenal, Celestino del (2004b), “La política exterior de España después de Irak”, in Perspectivas Exteriores 2004. Los intereses de España en el mundo, Madrid, Política Exterior/FRIDE/Elcano Royal Institute, p. 71-88.
– Arenal, Celestino del (2004c), “La política exterior del gobierno socialista”, Política Exterior, vol. XVIII, nº 100, p. 111-126.
– Malamud, Carlos (2004), “España y América Latina. Lo global y lo bilateral”, Política Exterior, vol. XVIII, nº 102, p. 13-24.
– Malamud, Carlos, and Mallo, Tomás (2003), La XIII Cumbre Iberoamericana de Santa Cruz de la Sierra: algunos pasos significativos en la consolidación del sistema iberoamericano, Elcano Royal Institute, ARI nº 155/2003, 31/XII/2003.
– Malamud, Carlos and Mallo, Tomás (2004), La Cumbre Iberoamericana de Costa Rica: ¿el declive de las cumbres o una cumbre de transición?, Elcano Royal Institute, ARI, 16/XII/2004.