South American leaders vow to create an EU-styled political union

Regional leaders meet in Peru this week to set up the basis of an eventual political unification of the continent

With the European experience in their minds, South American leaders meet this week in Cuzco, the millenarian capital city of the Inca's Empire in Peru, in an attempt to set the basis of the political unification of the continent and speed up the integration process of the two main trade blocs of the region. The bid id ambitious indeed, as officials and analysts believe the goal could only be accomplished in 15 years.

The initiative was mainly fuelled by Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Da Silva and quickly supported by his Argentinean and Venezuelan counterparts. However, even when adherents, countries from the Andean region - Colombia, Chile and Peru - are less enthusiastic as they are negotiating or have just finished comprehensive free trade deals with the US.

Many pledges have been made before on the unification of a space with a history in common and a similar linguistic background – all countries speak Spanish, apart from Brazil, which is a Portuguese speaking nation. However, the Andean Community – Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru - used to have a more pro-US approach, while the Mercosur –Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, plus Venezuela since Chavez - used to have a more independent road. Despite differences, now the presidents of both organizations have agreed to establish a free trade zone between the two blocs.

The presidents or foreign ministers of the nine nations, plus observers from the governments of Mexico, Panama, Guyana and Suriname are to meet in the Andean cities of Cuzco and Ayacucho.

The work ahead will be tough, as the new South American Union will have to speed up the institutional integration, as well as the economical and energetic cooperation. On the first issue, little has been done, apart from early efforts in the Mercosur to create a common Parliament and courts ruling on trade issues.

On the energetic side, Venezuela is playing a very active role, pushing bilateral and multilateral agreements to promote the power cooperation among nations.

But even if the South American countries fail to formally create a union as envisioned, they are moving toward greater integration, led by Brazil, the continent's economic powerhouse. Brazil has been extending loans to its neighbors to pave dirt roads and modernize ports.

Photo: Presidents of Argentina, Venezuela and Brazil (from left to right)

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Author`s name Olga Savka