Despite political ups and downs, economic storms, the pandemic and other challenges, we Latin Americans have an integrative vocation.
We have the intention, the spirit, the mechanisms, the institutions, we even have important and very admirable results in some areas.
The only thing we need is to effectively implement the integration.
According to a report prepared by IDB Intal (Institute for the Integration of Latin America and the Caribbean) and Latinobarómetro, more than 70% of people in Latin America welcome economic integration and are aware of its benefits. The percentage is even higher among young people.
It is also encouraging that more than half of the region’s inhabitants, 53%, consider it positive and necessary, according to the study “Latin Americans’ opinions on democracy, institutions and regional integration”, carried out by the same organizations.
Of the integration mechanisms that we have in the region, the most effective, and with the largest number of inhabitants, is Mercosur.
With a population of around 300 million people and a GDP of over US$ 1.2 billion (2020), the bloc has only four active members (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay).
It also has a Parliament that represents the citizens of the member states and allows the free movement of people between countries, although with some differences in the specific details.
With all this baggage in its favor, Mercosur has served, in its more than 30 years of history, as the best possible scenario for cooperation and rapprochement between countries, and it is, in my opinion, capable of taking the step towards the next stage: full and effective integration.
To achieve this, I appeal to what was undoubtedly an inspiration for the 1991 Treaty of Asuncion: the European Union (EU). But not as an instruction manual, or a drawing to be copied, but as a map of the possibilities and opportunities that will present themselves in the future.
The successes achieved so far by Europe in its process can be attributed to the fact that the founding countries worked to establish three fundamental questions: what each should do, what they could accomplish together and, finally, what they necessarily had to do together. .
In the first category, each member state legislates and regulates issues such as public health, sport, industry, tourism, education, civil protection and culture, sometimes with EU support.
Achievements within the EU include the common currency, the customs union, the approval of academic certifications and support for the less developed members of the bloc.
Activities that require major technological development, massive capital investment or with impacts beyond each country, such as the space program, humanitarian policy and environmental protection, are among the things that must necessarily be done together.
By no means do I intend to oversimplify the topic, since, in fact, the challenges are no less.
Despite its many achievements, Mercosur still does not have a joint legal system.
There are also differences among its members regarding the indispensable requirement of supranationality, that is, the concept that, in order to effectively move towards a model such as the European one, it is necessary to accept that, in many areas, common interests will have more weight than particular national interests. .
I would like to point out that it is not necessarily a matter of differences in criteria regarding the issue of supranationality, but rather that, in some cases, the constitutions of these countries do not accept it as a concept.
Therefore, there is a long way to go, but there is also a very successful history behind Mercosur, a series of undeniable achievements and, above all, a solid vocation of integration among citizens.
Until now, we have lived through periods of greater approximation on issues of economic and trade integration, interspersed with periods of lesser interest in the pursuit of common goals.
However, far from being frustrated, we must persevere and seek those spaces of integration where the common interest prevails –which is not always necessarily the commercial one– in order to continue to achieve integration milestones that globally benefit our citizens.
What is required is to continue the effort and foster political will so that Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, as well as all the countries that join it in the future, make Mercosur evolve from well-intentioned cooperation to effective integration.
Translation of Giulia Gaspar