The main goal of the proposed seminar is to take stock of where the relationships of the Czech Republic stands with Argentina, the Mercosur and its member states, and what would be the impact on these relations, once the Czech Republic joins the EU, principally in the fields of politics, economics and culture, but including also other important subjects of mutual interest, like the fight against narcotrafics and associated crimes, the participation of the Czech Republic in EU investment projects and cooperation projects. The aim would be to facilitate the upgrading and gradual adjustment of relations with the Czech Republic in the times to come, leading to its incorporation to the EU.

The participation in the seminar of other central European countries candidates to join the EU is expected, i.e.: the Visegrad Group. The seminar should also look into the changes and developments that will take place with their incorporation to the EU. Latinamerican countries with Embassies in Prague should be invited to attend as Observers.

More than eleven years have passed since the Czech Republic rejoined the democratic and free market world, the same time practically as the Argentine, which happened seven years earlier but that historically considered represents the same generation. Countries in their respective, regions, with minor exceptions in Latin America, also returned to the free world institutions by the same time.

In the span of those years, the Czech Republic has privatized practically their complete public utilities, banks and firms, with most of them passing to foreign ownership hands; has joined NATO and is preparing to enter the European Union around 2004. Argentina has privatized its former public utilities and enterprises which, together with most of the banks, have gone to foreign ownership hands. Many firms, though, still remain in national private ownership.

The Mercosur was considerably advanced as a regional integration scheme, not just of trade and economic importance, but also of strategic value and interest to their members.

The European Union, then as EEC, which had previously established important links with the members of Mercosur individually considered, inspired mostly by the South American countries, established in the 80’s a mechanism for political dialogue with the Rio Group at the level of Foreign Ministers from both sides.

In 1995 the EU and the Mercosur countries signed the Framework Agreement for Economic Cooperation, which included a mechanism for political consultations, again at the level of Foreign Ministers by both sides. That agreement provides for the setting up of a negotiated free trade zone between the EU and Mercosur, as one of the pillars for a Biregional Association between the two groups of States. The second pillar being the political dialogue mechanism. A third pillar, ie.: for Reinforced Cooperation, shall be also negotiated as an integral part of the Biregional Association. The negotiations for a free trade zone have started in 1999 and the most recent meeting took place last October in Brussels.

With the Latinamerican region, in the year 1996 as a result of a Spanish – French initiative, the EU heads of States and Governments proposed a meeting to their counterparts, which meant, although participating all together in plenary meetings, arranging as well for separate ones with Mercosur, the Rio Group and other Latinamerican groupings. The meeting took place in 1999, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The second meeting is being organized for May 2002 in Spain. This EU modality of summit meetings was first implemented by the EU with the asian countries.

It should be pointed out that, in the view of outside commentators, the moves with Mercosur and Latinamerica by the EU, seemed to have been inspired in the past by the United States’ attempts to set up the Free Trade Area of the Americas. The perception of Mercosur, may be said to be, is that the EU is showing certain degree of autonomy in their search for progress for a negotiated free trade zone with them.

The proposed present seminar is expected to take place during the first half of April 2002. At such time, the Presidency of Mercosur will correspond to Argentina, who holds it throughout the 1st semester of that year.

Prague, 4th December, 2001

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