The 35th summit of the South American regional trade bloc Mercosur has got underway in the northern Argentine city of Tucuman.
Argentina’s Kristina Fernandez was the first to arrive for the meeting which is set to focus on a number of regional issues, including the effects of Europe’s tougher stance on immigrants.
Founded by Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay, Mercosur aims to improve economic and commercial integration. Venezuela is in the process of joining while Chile and Bolivia are attending as associate members.
On arrival, Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez reiterated his aim of creating an independent south american entity: “We must march together towards political autonomy,” he said,“South America is politically much more independent as a region than it was ten years ago. We must move forward towards full autonomy.”
But it was the President of Chile, Michele Bachelet, who highlighted the consequences of Europe’s tightening of its immigration policy:
“As a bloc, we will put pressure on the EU over its new immigration policy. To do this, we must pull together as a group, in terms of our own social and economic integration, for the benefit of our own people.”
Tough new measures adopted by the EU parliament on June the 18th are what is causing this unease, in particular plans to detain illegal immigrants for up to 18 months and impose a re-entry ban of five years.
Hugo Chavez was less conciliatory: “We will not send Venezuelan oil to any country which applies this directive, I repeat, Venezuelan oil will not go!”
More than 15 percent of the money sent back to the region by workers from abroad comes from the EU, way behind the US. Many feel that the EU’s decision will directly impact on the economic situation in South America.