Prodesis, the European Union competes with the US in disastrous "development" policies

Prodesis, the European Union competes with the US in disastrous

By Anna Hampf

After an analytical balance, several social organizations, including the RMALC, have concluded that the interests of the EU in Mexico are not the strengthening of political dialogue or cooperation, and much less the protection of human rights, but rather to be a counterweight to the influence of the US in Latin America, reverse the little importance that the EU has in the Latin American market, promote free trade and free investment in the Latin American market and guarantee commercial benefits in areas that were blocked globally during negotiations in the WTO.

The PRODESIS Program (Project for Integrated and Sustainable Social Development in the Lacandon Jungle) was carried out between 2004 and 2008 in the Lacandon Jungle in Chiapas, conceived as a "sustainable development" project. The Chiapas government contributed the equivalent of 16 million euros (approximately MX $ 311 million pesos) and the European Union (EU) another 15 million euros (MX $ 291 million), an amount that almost equals a third of total cooperation agreed by the EU and Mexico for the period 2007-2013. The objectives of this project were:

- reduce the pressure on the natural resources of the region,
- mitigate environmental degradation,
- face the poverty of the inhabitants and
- reformulate the social development policy in Chiapas with a focus on participation and sustainability of territorial development (1)

These objectives sought to strengthen civil society and improve the relationship between the government of Chiapas and the 155,000 inhabitants of the 830 communities located in the protected area of ​​the Lacandona Forest: The Montes Azules biological reserve, one of the areas with the greatest biodiversity in the world, contains a large number of medicinal plants and species in extinction. In contrast to this natural wealth, the population of the entity, which for the most part are indigenous peoples and subsistence farmers, has one of the highest levels of marginalization and poverty in Chiapas and Mexico.

PRODESIS was the latest project in a series of programs that included the Cañadas Plan and the PIDSS (Comprehensive Program for the Sustainable Development of the Forest) project. Unlike its predecessors, PRODESIS focused on only 16 of the 34 microregions identified by PIDSS.

These 16 micro-regions were selected because they supposedly offered conditions for their economic development. The microregions include Agua Azul, Avellanal, Amador Hernández, Betania, Benemérito de las Américas, Carmen Villaflores, Lacandona Community, Damasco, Francisco I Madero, Maravilla Tenejapa, Marqués de Comillas, Nahá, Nuevo Francisco León, Nuevo Huixtán, Río Blanco and Santo Sunday (2).

Project rejected

Two years after its inception, the project was harshly criticized and rejected by some of the participating communities. On February 9, 2007, the press published a complaint, the so-called Moxviquil Declaration, in which 58 representatives of the three sub-regions Comitán, Ocosingo and Palenque demanded the suspension of the project, for not having been informed or consulted about the project:

"They have not informed us about the origin, content, financing and general and specific objectives of this project and we have only ever been subject to a decision. […] It is not that the PRODESIS proposal is bad but illegitimate, because we could not participate in its definition and elaboration ... "(3)

They also argued that the project violated Article 2 of the Mexican Constitution, which guarantees "the indigenous and their communities the right to design and operate jointly with the Mexican state the institutions and programs that affect them." Furthermore, PRODESIS was criticized for violating Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization, which states that "peoples must participate in the formulation, application, and evaluation of national and regional development plans and programs likely to affect them directly (4).

The communities also criticized the absence of true social development, limiting themselves to the distribution of subsidies for the purchase of cement, seeds, chickens, and tiles. Some signatories of the Moxviquil Declaration later denounced having been threatened with being excluded from other types of government support (Oportunidades or Procampo) if they did not withdraw (5).

Project failed

Apart from being rejected by the same communities allegedly benefited, PRODESIS failed to meet the general objectives proposed when it began its activities in 2004, according to an evaluation of the project commissioned by the European Commission that was carried out by the company IBF International Consulting in jointly with BAa Consultors. In their report, independent European consultants affirm that PRODESIS has not managed to reduce poverty or significantly reduce the pressure on natural resources (deforestation remains at 1% per year). They also criticize that the economic initiatives of the project to promote social development in the region have not produced concrete productive results. The commission document also indicates that many processes were unfinished (6).

Also note that, despite being relevant in its objectives, the project was not viable. He explains that the Global Operational Plan, which schedules the project activities, stated that 2005 and 2006 should be years of full execution. In reality, most of the planned activities were not achieved or started, so that the four-year duration of PRODESIS is reduced to approximately two of effective intervention (7).

The consultants criticize that this time in no case is sufficient to promote processes that imply changes in focus at the institutional, municipal or microregional levels, since they normally take between five and ten years to take effect. The delay that delayed the start of the project was due to the incompatibility of regulations between the EU and Mexico regarding the management of project funds. The researchers' report points out that this indifference, which was not resolved between April and September 2004, was very costly in terms of time and reduced the efficiency of the project as a whole. Hence, at the beginning of 2006 the EU had transferred to Chiapas only 3 million 600 thousand euros of the 15 million committed for 2007 (8). Affected communities criticize that a large part of this budget was spent on technician salaries instead of being invested in local development.

Apart from the criticism it received for not fulfilling its objectives and violating the rights of indigenous peoples, PRODESIS, like its predecessors PIDSS and Plan Cañadas, was accused by the population and some local and international NGOs of sheltering ends counterinsurgency. In any case, the truth is that the project was carried out in an area of ​​high conflict, with a strong military presence and where a part of the population proposes to remain in permanent opposition to government programs until the San Andrés agreements are complied with.

Despite this criticism, in October 2008, during the eighth meeting of the Common Committee of the European Union and Mexico, and based on the Global Agreement, the responsible authorities affirmed that:

"In addition, the parties recognize the positive results of the PRODESIS project and agreed to seek a possibility of continuing it in a second phase of cooperation between 2007 - 2013."

At the end of 2008, Rodolfo Díaz Sarvide, the then general director of PRODESIS and responsible for the implementation of the project, traveled to Brussels, possibly to negotiate the next phase of the project. However, in early 2009 the EU decided to cancel PRODESIS (9).

European investment in Mexico

Projects such as PRODESIS cast doubt on the intention of the EU to promote social development in a conflictive environment such as Chiapas. The PRODESIS project arises from the Global Agreement, which includes the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the European Union (EU) and Mexico that entered into force in 2000. This agreement "seeks not only to generate the release of the treaty and the investment between Mexico and the European Union, but also social equality and a political system that is democratic and pluralistic and respects human rights. " (10).

Although the EU stresses that the fundamental principle of the Global Agreement is the protection of human rights and democratic principles, as established by the so-called democratic clause in Article 1 of the Agreement, many analysts are convinced that the true interests of the EU lie elsewhere. .

During a speech at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM) in Mexico City in 2002, Pascal Lamy, the current director of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and then European trade leader, explained:

"The Agreement establishes a political dialogue at the high level on all bilateral and international issues in order to coordinate common positions in the international arena. But more importantly, the agreement includes a Free Trade Agreement.

I always call it "the first, the fastest and the best". The first, because it was the first transatlantic FTA ever negotiated. The fastest, because it was negotiated within a year and went through the concession processes in record time. And the best, because it represents (at this moment) the broadest agreement in terms of extension. "(11)

With his statement Lamy shows that the negotiation of the agreement was so fast that it barely allowed the participation of civil society and the legislature. Social and civil organizations criticize that they were not consulted and that the way in which the Agreement was negotiated was very similar to that experienced by Mexico with the United States and Canada (NAFTA) (12). In other words, the process was not very transparent and did not take into account the great asymmetries that Mexico has with respect to the European Union. A few years after the Free Trade Agreement came into force, these asymmetries have generated numerous negative effects among Mexico's economic and social sectors.

According to an evaluation carried out by the German foundation Heinrich Böll in 2008, during the first six years of the free trade agreement (FTA), Mexico's trade deficit with the EU increased by approximately 80%. Furthermore, a significant diversification of foreign trade was not achieved, one of the objectives behind the signing of an agreement with the EU. Although the EU includes 27 countries, trade is concentrated in a few countries such as Germany and Spain, which account for more than half of all trade between Mexico and the EU.

Furthermore, an important part of the exports is carried out by European transnationals from Mexican territory. The treaty also failed to deliver on its promise to create more and better jobs. Researchers from the foundation established that 1,377,973 jobs were lost in the Mexican countryside and 57% of the new jobs created do not comply with the law (holidays, social security). They criticize that 14.5% of existing jobs were also lost in the manufacturing sector. They conclude that the macroeconomic results not only did not benefit the majority of the population, but that the FTA has been a failure by not achieving the objectives that were sought when it was signed.

The negative impacts on the social sector and civil society are also worrying. The non-governmental organization (NGO) RMALC points out that the EU used political dialogue to pressure the Mexican government to open certain economic sectors such as energy and water, highly coveted by transnational companies (13). In addition, the EU contributed to the financing of programs such as the Plan Puebla Panama (PPP) and PRODESIS, both flatly rejected by indigenous peoples and some civil organizations. RMALC regrets that the negotiations of this type of treaty do not take into account public opinion or the demands of social organizations. Nor has the treaty contributed to the protection of human rights and democratic principles, because Article 1 of the Agreement can only be applied if it is a systematic violation of human rights carried out by the government. For this reason, civil organizations have demanded that the democratic clause be expressed in the affirmative, transcending the mere sanction of violations and promoting the promotion, guarantee and respect for human rights.


After an analytical balance, several social organizations, including the RMALC, have concluded that the interests of the EU in Mexico are not the strengthening of political dialogue or cooperation, and much less the protection of human rights but:

- be a counterweight to the influence of the US in Latin America,
- reverse the low importance of the EU in the Latin American market,
- promote free trade and free investment in the Latin American market and
- guarantee trade benefits in areas that were blocked globally during the WTO negotiations (14).

Given that the negotiations within the WTO failed in July 2006, it is not surprising that the EU released a new strategy soon after, in October 2006, entitled "Globalized Europe: Competing in the world", which set out new objectives for Europe's international trade policy, among them the reduction of non-tariff barriers for European exports and investments, greater access to natural resources, the guarantee of energy supply, the strengthening of the European presence in the emerging countries, the implementation of anti-dumping mechanisms and the protection of property rights.

In search of the greatest possible deregulation, the EU began to negotiate the FTA with the Andean Community, the MERCOSUR region and the Central American countries. At the moment there are free trade agreements with Chile and Mexico. Negotiations with the Andean Community and Central America on an Association Agreement have not yet been concluded due to disagreement with the Bolivian government and the current situation in Honduras. It is disturbing to see that the EU continues to look for ways to meet its objectives regardless of costs. If it fails to achieve its objectives within the WTO, it pursues them through bilateral or regional treaties that are even more damaging than those that exist globally. Having seen the havoc that European "cooperation" policies have wreaked both at the local and state levels for Mexico, is there reason to doubt that their push in other Latin American countries will produce the same negative results?

Anna hampf - "Chiapas al Dia" - CIEPAC - Center for Economic Research and Politics of Community Action, A.C.

Chiapas; Mexico - November 12, 2009


1. Guide. 2008-2010.

2. PRODESIS totally explained. URL:

3. Moxviquil Declaration. 2007. URL:

4. International Labor Organization: C169 Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989.

5. URL:

6. Heinrich Böll Stiftung (HBS 2008): Balance of the Global Agreement between Mexico and the European Union: 8 years after its entry into force. First edition, Mexico City, 2008, p. 60

7. HBS 2008, p. 64

8. 64

9. URL:

10. Committee on External Economic Relations: RECOMMENDATION on the proposal for a Council decision concerning the conclusion of the interim agreement on trade and trade-related matters between the European Community, on the one part, and the United Mexican States, on the other part . 04.27.1998.

11. Lamy, Pascal: "Mexico and the EU: Married Partners, Lovers, or Just Good Friends?" Institute of European Integration Studies, Instituto Technologico Autonomo de Mexico (ITAM) Mexico City, 29 April 2002-.

12. HBS 2008, p.3

13. RMALC: The EU-Mexico Free Trade Agreement Seven Years On. A warning to the global South. 2007.

14. RMALC: The EU Free Trade Agreement Seven Years On. 2007.

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