Brazilian President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s tour of the Iberian peninsula to strengthen ties with the EU. However, Lula’s persistent claims that both Russia and Ukraine are responsible for the ongoing war have underscored the challenge facing the EU and its allies in building a global coalition to hold Russia accountable for its invasion of Ukraine.
The article also notes that Lula’s rhetoric on the war has been condemned by the US as “parroting Russian and Chinese propaganda” and has exposed the EU’s lack of political influence over non-western countries. While Lula has condemned the invasion of a sovereign state, he did not disavow comments made last week in the UAE that Russia and Ukraine bore joint responsibility and that the US and EU were “contributing” to the conflict.
“We are not in favour of war. We want peace,” Lula added in Lisbon on Saturday alongside Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Portugal’s president. In this ongoing conflict, Lula also said: “Russia does not want to stop and Ukraine does not want to stop. And if you don’t talk about peace, you are contributing to war.”
On Tuesday, Brazilian President Lula da Silva is scheduled to travel to Spain, which will assume the rotating EU presidency in July. This visit marks Lula’s first European trip since he took office in January, following his visits to China and the US. According to a senior diplomat, Lula’s trip to the Iberian peninsula is intended to demonstrate that the EU is a “key priority” for Latin America’s largest country.
The global response to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has served as a wake-up call to EU diplomats, who have been unable to convince major nations in Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia to condemn Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. EU officials have acknowledged their difficulty in countering Russian and Chinese rhetoric in the developing world, which portrays the invasion as an act of self-defense by Russia and claims that unjustified Western sanctions have worsened global inflation, food supply issues, and geopolitical instability.
While Brazil has supported the UN’s condemnation of Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and annexation of parts of its territory, it has not joined Western sanctions against Moscow or agreed to supply arms to Ukraine.
“I understand Europe’s position, I understand the position of Romania, which has a 600km border with Ukraine, but I want people to understand Brazil’s position,” Lula told reporters in Lisbon. “Brazil does not want to participate in the war, Brazil wants to find a group of people who are willing to spend a little time talking with all the people who are willing to make peace.”
According to EU officials, the recent comments made by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, suggesting that both Russia and Ukraine were responsible for the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, should not be overemphasized.
They have pointed out that such experienced politicians often adapt their rhetoric to their audience to seek geopolitical advantages. However, Lula’s statements have added to the growing sense of disconnection between the EU and the global south.
The 27-member bloc is seeking to reverse years of lackluster engagement with the region and has scheduled a summit with Latin American and Caribbean countries in Brussels in July. EU officials admit that it was a mistake not to hold a summit with the region for the past eight years.
The relationship between the EU and Brazil has been strained since a dispute over environmental regulations last month caused a delay in a trade agreement with four of South America’s largest economies. This has led to some Latin American and Caribbean nations feeling neglected by Europe in recent years, according to a second EU official.
The lack of engagement with the region was highlighted by the eight-year gap between summits of EU, Latin American, and Caribbean countries, which Brussels officials admit was a mistake. Francisco Seixas da Costa, a former Portuguese deputy foreign minister and ambassador to Brazil, commented that Lula’s remarks on Ukraine are in line with Brazil’s longstanding desire to be seen as a significant player on the international stage, as an actor of the global south. He noted that Brazil traditionally follows a policy of neutrality, which in this case may be creating difficulties.
“He didn’t realise it was impossible to maintain the idea of being neutral. Being neutral means not being on the side of the victim,” Seixas da Costa suggest. “That is a mistake.”
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