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Statement by President von der Leyen with Chilean President Boric

Thank you very much for the very warm welcome I have received here, President Boric, dear Gabriel,

Chile is a very important and very privileged partner for the European Union. We are like-minded. We share the same values. We are good old friends. And Europe and Chile are not only natural partners, but we are partners of choice. Last week, the European Union issued our Latin America strategy. It is an offer to you, and this offer is very simple. On the one hand, it says: Let us strengthen our bilateral relationship, get out the most possible out of it and also let us join forces to tackle the global challenges we are facing all together, be it climate change, be it geopolitical tensions or be it the challenge to build an inclusive society. This Latin America strategy will of course be supported by new investment. As you said, the European Union is already the top investor in the region. But we want to step up even further. We will do that through our investment plan, called Global Gateway. We will invest EUR 10 billion in Latin America and the Caribbean. And this will be complemented bilaterally by our Member States and of course by the private investment sector.

Against this backdrop, the two of us and the delegations, we had many topics on our agenda today. The first one is indeed green hydrogen. I am very glad that we launched the Fund for Renewable Hydrogen today, supported by ‘Team Europe’. The Fund will have an initial budget of EUR 225 million. This is a great step forward. Because, we discussed it, the global demand for hydrogen is skyrocketing, it will increase enormously over the next years. Just as an example, the European Union has decided by 2030, not only to produce domestically 10 million tonnes of green hydrogen but also to import to the European Union 10 million tonnes of green hydrogen per year. So we need friends that are the producers of this green hydrogen. And for us, Chile, our friend, this is one of the most important projects that we can embark on together. So this Fund for Renewable Hydrogen here in Chile will support the development of this strategic industry. It will create good jobs here in Chile and it will boost your exports of renewable hydrogen to the world but of course also to partners, like the European Union.

In parallel, we are stepping up our dialogue on climate change and energy. I very much welcome the first steps taken by Chile to provide a clear, predictable and fair framework for companies in the renewables sector as they continue to have liquidity problems. I hope, we discussed it, and I am confident that you will consider further measures to alleviate the situation of these companies here in Chile. It is important to maintain existing investments and to attract new ones. This is what we are going to work on together.

The second topic we discussed is our new Advanced Framework Agreement. I am very glad that we have it politically concluded. Now we are working on technicalities that have the name like ‘legal scrubbing’, or the translation in 24 languages on the European site, because we have 27 Member States and it has to be translated. This Agreement is very important for us. It will open a new, ambitious chapter in our partnership. It holds a lot of potential. Chile’s products will get better access to the European Union Single Market. It is a Single Market of 450 million consumers. Chilean companies and investors will be treated the same way as their European counterparts on our market. And it is very important for us that your small and medium-sized companies will benefit from simpler rules when doing business in Europe. We know that we are sometimes complicated, therefore we simplify the rules for the small and medium enterprises so that they have access. This Agreement also fosters the right conditions for our investors to come to Chile and work with your companies to create local added value here. So we have agreed that we hope we are done with the work by the end of the year so that we can sign officially this Agreement.  

My third point is the digital transition. We already have a very good cooperation in this area. For instance, we recently launched the EU-Latin America Digital Alliance. It is under the umbrella of this Digital Alliance that we enabled the Copernicus Regional Center for Earth Observation at the University of Chile. And we have the BELLA programme that is taking advantage of the digital bridge between Europe and Latin America. That is the EllaLink for data, the underwater cable. All of this can help consolidate Chile’s position as a regional digital leader. Global Gateway is also here, for this topic, to support our joint digital ambitions.

Finally, let me also highlight the need for critical raw materials to power the green transition but actually also the digital transition. In both, we need these critical raw materials. Chile is a very important supplier of lithium to the world, including Europe. The demand for lithium is expected to grow significantly on both our continents because we are working to decarbonise our economies. And here, the critical raw materials play a great role. There is no wind turbine without lithium, for example; there is no battery without critical raw materials. This is why we have agreed that we want to work on a strategic partnership on sustainable raw materials and the whole value chain. We both will be working hard so that we can sign a Memorandum of Understanding very soon, to join forces. The strategic partnership will allow our companies to work together to create local added value, right here in Chile. You said it: Others take the minerals after they have been extracted and bring them to their countries and have the processing, and thus the added value there. We think differently. We think it is much better for the local communities that you do not only have the mining and extraction here, in an environmentally respectful manner, but that we also have the processing process and the whole value chain here in Chile. And that is the point where we want to support you. For that, we will promote the sourcing and mining that is respectful of the environment and of the livelihoods of your communities. And we will work with you to develop the whole value chain here in Chile.

What is our interest? Because you might ask yourself, what is our interest to invest here in Chile: We want a trusted and like-minded reliable partner for this important raw material. Because we just made the experience with an unreliable partner when Russia cut the gas supplies to the European Union within eight months by 80%. And we have learnt our lesson, and therefore, we are diversifying, and we want to work very closely with our friends, with like-minded partners and with reliable partners.

To conclude, we have a very vibrant and broad partnership that is based on shared values. Values which are reflected not only in our trade and investment relations but in our cooperation across the board. It is now 50 years after the coup d’état, and the people of Chile know how precious freedom and democracy are and that we should never take them for granted. We have to stand up for them every single day. I want to thank Chile, and you personally Mr President, for the strong support for the Ukrainian people in their fight for freedom. You firmly condemned the Russian aggression against Ukraine. You just described how  the impact of the Russian war goes well beyond Ukraine’s border and affects the whole world, also with the knock-on effect on inflation, on food crises and on high energy prices. But most importantly, together, we stand up for Ukraine because the Russian invasion is a clear attack on the principles of the international law and the UN Charter that protect all countries. Enshrined in the UN Charter is the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity that we all have to respect, whether a small country or a large country, whether a mighty country or not so mighty country. These international rules are important for peace. And therefore, we must work together in the international fora to uphold the UN Charter and the international law.

Let me say once again, it is a pleasure to be here. Thank you very much for receiving me.

Source: Europa News