15 October 2004
Q 1. In what scale does Argentina have an economic and social relationship with European Union ?
Argentina has a relationship with Europe that goes back to history. I don't mean just the European Union. The EU is being constructed, it is still in progress. It is a project of political and economical relationship between a number of countries. Our relation with Europe goes beyond that project. Most of the population of Argentina is formed by European descendants. As you know American continent was reached by Spain first and then followed the Portuguese, the English, the French and Dutch and many others. Our actual territories were under the dominance of the Spanish Crown, and this situation lasted until the 19th century. The native population in what is now Argentine was rather small an didn't have a very developed culture, a dfference with Mexico or Peru. A big part of the inhabitants were coming from Europe, specially during the second part of the 19th century; at the point that in a moment the majority of population of Argentina was european, not native or aborigine. This fact makes our relationship with Europe a very simple one, very direct; at the point that we felt for many years that we are part of Europe. That was a mistake of course, because we vere forgeting that we were in America. In the 20 th. century we realized that we are part of what is called Latin America, and we started to make more direct an c+-oser contacts with the countries around us.
In the last century Europe suffered two big wars in which we didn't participate; instead we looked at ourselves. We made good business in the wars. After the First Worl Wart, but in particular after de Second War, we started to look at our continent closely; and worked in the creation of the Organization of American States, that comprises all the countries, from south to north; I mean, the whole American continent. That is why we don't want to say America for the United States. They are part of America as much a we are. Geographically speaking, we distinguish three Americas: North, Central and South. North America include Canada, US and Mexico; then comes Central America and the Caribbeans, this mostly anglophone, with some important exceptions, like Cuba, Puerto Rico or Republica Dominicana.. The anglophone caribbeans has been mostly British colonies and they are still very close related to the former Metropolis. In that part we still find French territories, as well as Ducth. In South America, the majority of the countries are Spanish speaking.. Of course, you cannot forget Brazil, that is the biggest one and they speak Portugese. In fact, personally I feel that Brazilians make an effort to speak Spanish much bigger than we do to learn Portugese; and that is somethig to remark. We should make an effort to be closer to them as far as the language is concerned, I mean. We have many traditions and many problems in common with the other Latin maerican countries. At the same time, every country has its own traditions culture and history. For example, Peru has a very old tradition and culture from the Incas, that we dont have in Argentina. Most of our territory was not part of that Empire and the population is different. The component of the population in Argentina, Uruguay and Chile is different on the component of population of Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru or Ecuador for example. Our countries, specially those of the South, are a real mosaic from the population point of view. In Argentina we have an important population from Spanish origin, but also a very important number of Italian origin. Of the 37 million of our population in this moment, most are from those two origins, but also from almost every country in the world. But at the same time, we all feel and really ARE Argentineans.
In the recent decades there have being various projects to reach an organizations betwen the Latin American countries for closer economical relations. Since 1991 four countries of the Southern Cone of America created the Common Market of the South, or MERCOSUR. Those countries are Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay. There are also two associates, Chile and Bolivia. We hope to have Chile as a full member in the near future. For Bolivia is a litle more dificult because is part of another group of countries at the Andeanes region. This common market, like the European Common Market years ago, expects to develop also into a political block in the future. For the time being, we try to consolidate the economical aspects as well as the institutions already in place.
As I said before, we have at present, and always had, very close relations with Europe, before and after the European Union. In this moment, the MERCOSUR is negotiating very hard with EU for a free trade agreement. This negotiations has been going on for years; in fact we have reached very far in the negotiations, but we have to overcome some problems. We were supposed to be finishing the negotiations on the month of October. From our side, we are expecting that the EU make a decision about the subsidies in the agricultural field, They are subsidizing too much and that affect badly to our exports and the producers. We believe that this is not fair, and is one of the problem we have with them. On the other side, the EU expects from us to give more in services, in the participation in public bids and in investments. They want us to open to their capitals and enterprises. I don't know if the negotiations will be concluded in October, but all the parties concerned wishes to get a result before the new European Commision asumes its duties in November.
We dont know yet what is going to happen. Personally, I try to be optimistic. We still have a month to go, and the possibilities are open.
2. What do you think about the intentions of The USA to unite North America and South America ?
This is what is called Asssotiation of Free Trade of America. In Spanish we call it ALCA. The project is supposed to create a free market from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. The idea started with president Bill Clinton. That project, that was supposed to start functioning at the beggining of 2005 is now stagnant. In this case the agricultural subsidies are also part of the problem, but not the only one. The United States want to negotiate with each one of the countries separately, but we insist in seating as MERCOSUR. Imagine that, specially for small countries, it is almost impossible to negotiate with the a superpower like the US as equals. If we accepted to deal separately, we risk to start compiting among us to receive a better treatement, and at the end all of us will lose.
I remember reading Mr. Clinton declaring when he was president that the goal of ALCA was to establish a free market from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, adding "for the American enterprises". But he did not mean America as a geographical continent, but as the United States of America. That means freedom was for them, not for us. That is very sad, because you may think that in the whole project there were hidden intentions.
In any case, the negotiations has made progress in many aspects, but at the moment, considering that in the US they are immersed in the presidential elections campaing, the we are in a "wait and see" situation.
This free market was supposed to start in the beginning of the 2005 and according to the declarations I have from my Government possibly this is not going to happen, due to the reasons I pointed out before. İn this moment it is almost impossible for the US Government to make any concessions if that have the risk of producing the angry reactions of internal groups.
I don't really know if ALCA is going to start one day. If it does, I hope it will be for the benefit af all the countries of the continent.
We have seen the experience of Mexico with NAFTA, the common market between Mexico, Canada and the United States. NAFTA was supposed to be an ideal situation for Mexico, but if you ask them what happened in the agricultural sector, it has been a disaster. Because most of the small producers are ruined. And in Mexico the rural population is very high, so the social cost is tremendous. We hope that ALCA will not reproduce those problems.
3. Why did Argentina fail in earlier intentions of integration ?
Well, it is not only Argentina, we failed as a continent. I mean as a subcontinent. We have had previous approaches back in the 19th century , and there has been one or two big projects in the second part of the 20th century and they did not work, ar at least they didn't succes according to the expectations. As for the reasons of those failures, maybe we have to look at the periodical political instability of our countries. Or maybe it was due to the egoistic attitude we had. I cannot give you the economical reason, because I really don't know exactly what failed in this aspect for the integration. We never had a political integration project, at least a serious one, before MERCOSUR.
I remember that in this period these countries used an import substitution industrialization.
Well, that was normal for us during the Second World War. We had to develop an industry to substitute the industrial products we had been receiving from Europe, taht was our biggest provider. The situation continued after the world, because, as you know, Europe was in ruins. Unfortunately we didn't continue for long the investments in tecnology and research, at least not as much as we should. Tere were Tere were certain exceptions, like atomic energy for example. That is a field in wich we have been going on for 50 years in the same direction. Besides, we have developed a lot of technology and made research in medicine, chemicals, etc. I think that explains why we have gotten a few Nobel prizes in science, because our people developed a lot of investigations and research in many aspects of the sciences. Unfortunately in the last few years the investments in resech and technology didn.'t continue as the should. In this moment, the Argentinean Gvernment is making a big effort to improve education as well as reseach and science. Scientific research, is going to make a very big part of the budget in the years to come. The defense budget is very small if you compare it with education.
That is the better way
We have realized that defense doesn't take us anywhere. Remember that we are not in a hot part of the world like Turkey. We are surrounded by friends, since fortunately we were able to resolve our problems.We have had a lot of problems with Chile along the 4,500 km of border we share, but now they are all solved. We are working together very closely. We have solved our limits with Brazil, with Paraguay, with Bolivia, with Uruguay, in wone word, with all of our neighbours. The only national cause we have is not with someone from our continent, but with the United Kingdom, that is occupying the Malvinas and some other of our islands in the South Atlantic.
4. I want to learn about the relations between Argentina and Spain. Is there any development ?
The relations with Spain are very close. The normalization of the bilateral relacitions was made trough the Trty we singned in 1854, and revised in 1862. It was the peace treaty containing the Spanish full recognition of our independence. From the Disclvry up to 1810 and formaly 1816 was is now Argentina was part of the Spanish Empire. We allways had many Spanish immigrants in the XIX and the first part of the XX Centuries. In last period, specially during the Spanish Civil War, in 1936-1939 and until 1955 we received a lot of people and we helped them in many ways, among other with food to face the dificulties of the isolation they suffered. That is something they never forgot and they showed a a great gratitude for. But this is jus a part of the relations we have with Spain. It is emotional. Besides, there is the genetic side, meaning , the biological genes and also the culture, that comprises the languege, the religion and traditions. It is not a all strange that many people vere going to Spain in recent years. Some of them went back and some others were children or grand children of Spanish immigrants. Of course, Spain have not the capability of receiving can not receive everybody. Remember that they other countries with close relations with Spain, mostly in Latin American, but also Phillipines. In some cases they had been Spanish colonies for 400 years; so they have special relationships stablished.. In this moment we have excelent relations with the Spanish Governemt and of course with the people. But is also true that we face some problems with certain banks and enterprises that participated in the process of privatization and concessions of many public services during the the last decade, due to the crisis Argentine suffered in 2001 and 2002 and not few of those services and privatization and concessions were taken by spanish enterprises. We hope to solve them trough negotiations. This is a part of a negotiation process that is going on. besides that, our relations with Spain are very close. Next November, we have in Rosario, Argentina, a very important meeting of all Sanish speaking world, calle Encuentro de la Lengua (Metting of the language) .This will be an opportunity is to show once more some of the things we share with Spain and all other Spanish speaking countries.
May be Spain will be a bridge between Europe and Latin America.
When Spain became part of the European Union it made clear it desire to play the role of a bridge between Latin America and Europe and in many aspect it played it. For some years now the rol of a brdige was somehow neglected by Spain, but we hope it will resume now. For the last tewelve years or so, is celebrated a summit of Iberoamerican countries. It is called Iberoamerican because it reunite not only Spain but also Portugal and Brazil. That was an idea of the King Juan Carlos of Spain, a person for whom aour countries we have a special appreciation, as well as for the Queen and the Royal Family. The king of Spain so he plays a big role in the realations between aour countries in order to get all of us together and to talk and work about common projects. There are many projects in research,culture, education. and all these aspects you see to work not economically mostly but in all seem to unite us that we have in common and that goes so in cooperation in many aspects we had been going on , I would say , for 50 years at least because we have something in common and as you said we think that Spain can be a bridge. The problem was in the last Spanish government. They forgot a little bit that role. We hope that Spain will take it again.
Let me finish thanking you for your visit and expressing my personal appretiation for Turkey and the Turkish people. Argentina and Turkey has enjoyed very friendly relations since 1909, when we opened a General Consulate in Istambul and the Ottoman Empire did the same in Buenos Aires. Our Diplomatic Mission have been in Ankara before 1940. On the other hand, in the last years, the relations have taken a big impromptu that we hope will go on on, for mutual benefits.
Thank you very much
+ūzer ŞAYIK: Research Asistant, International Strategic Research Organisation, ISRO