The 10 leaders of the Mercosur trade bloc meeting in Tucuman, Argentina, Monday and Tuesday are expected to condemn the EU's new immigration rules, discuss plans for regional integration and address the global food crisis.
Ecuador President Rafael Correa, after arriving Tucuman Sunday, complained about the European Union's so-called "returns directive" that criminalizes illegal immigration, allowing up to 18 months' detention prior to deportation and banishment from the EU for several years. Correa called the measure a "shameful directive" and told reporters he would be among the first Mercosur leaders to sign a statement to condemn it. Bolivian President Evo Morales echoed the sentiments: "When some Latin Americans try to improve their living conditions in Europe, they come face-to-face with discrimination and racism." The EU measures, which could come into force in 2010, have been strongly criticized by human rights groups and most Latin American governments, many of whose nationals live in Europe and send millions of dollars back home to their families. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has even threatened "the return of European investments" in his country to protest the harsh immigration rules. The Mercosur Parliament, meeting since Friday in this city 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) north of Buenos Aires, condemned the EU measures in a unanimous statement by its 66 members. In contrast to the EU rules, the Mercosur summit is expected to approve a proposal to eliminate visa travel between all its members, as a step toward regional integration, officials here said. The trade bloc will also deal with the world and regional food crisis, especially an Argentinian proposal to raise export tariffs on regional food exports as a means to curb spiraling prices. (AFP)