Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva Wednesday insisted in Madrid on his unorthodox view regarding the war in Ukraine but the approval of the Mercosur-European Union (EU) deal signed in 2019 that still needs to be ratified looked closer following Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez's comments.
On the second and last stop of the first European tour of his third presidential term, Lula maintained that ”we Brazilians condemn Russia's territorial violation against Ukraine (...) but nobody talks about peace. He also argued Russia and Ukraine need to negotiate peace and there is no point in saying who is right.
The mistake happened, war started, Lula explained. Now what we have to do is to stop the war, he added. There is no one who says peace, except me, who shouts peace as if I were alone in the desert, said the Brazilian leader, who visited Portugal before leaving for Madrid.
Lula's comments came almost at the same time that Chinese President Xi Jinping called his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky to ask him to initiate peace negotiations with Moscow because there are no winners in a nuclear war. Lula's trip to China earlier this month plus his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Brasilia irritated Washington and Brussels.
Sánchez reminded Lula that the conflict started with the Russian invasion, in Feb. 2022. In this war, there is an aggressor and there is an attacked: the aggressor is [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, and the attacked, in this case, is a people that the only thing it does is fight for territorial integrity, for its national sovereignty, and for its freedom, he said, thus implicitly questioning Lula's remarks from days ago when he said that the responsibilities for the war triggered were shared, for which the United States was quick to accuse him of echoing Russian and Chinese propaganda.
Regarding the EU-Mercosur agreement, Madrid and Brasilia hope to take advantage of the fact that they will hold this year the pro-tempore presidencies of each bloc to close once and for all the trade agreement that is still resisted by some European countries, partly due to concerns about the environmental policies of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
As you know, Brazil is going to chair Mercosur in the second half of this year, coinciding with the Spanish presidency of the Council of the European Union, Sánchez recalled. This coincidence of both presidencies I believe represents an extraordinary opportunity to try to materialize our rapprochement, added the Spanish leader, recalling that Spain maintains a firm commitment to advance in the ratification of this important trade agreement. With the Spanish presidency of the EU, which starts on July 1, we may have the possibility of closing this agreement, he added.
However, several European countries, notably France, remain reluctant, and French President Emmanuel Macron warned in late February that the agreement would not be possible” if Mercosur countries did not respect the same environmental constraints as the European farmers who fear that more South American agricultural products with lower production standards may enter their market.