The European Union (EU) and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) have enjoyed privileged relations since the first bi-regional Summit held in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) in 1999, which established our strategic partnership. Latin American countries are natural partners to the European Union linked by strong historical, cultural and economic ties.

Witness of this privileged partnership is the EU-LAC cooperation relationship at bilateral and regional levels that is ongoing for several decades, to which the European Commission has largely contributed in different matters (from Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME) development to education, health, climate change, governance, amongst other), in order to tackle poverty and increase economic and social well-being. Programmes such as AL-Invest, or more recently, Latin America Investment Facility (LAIF) have developed ties amongst the different partners from both LAC and EU countries, and enabled investment, in order to reduce poverty and increase sustainable growth. A political will has been shown by both parties to increase the engagement of the private sector in the achievement of these objectives.

Since 2010, with the launching of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), a regional mechanism for dialogue and cooperation has been established, encompassing for the first time all 33 LAC countries. The CELAC rotating Presidency in the second semester of 2014 was held by Costa Rica - with Ecuador taking over in the first semester of 2015.

The European Union is committed to develop an ambitious and comprehensive partnership with the CELAC region. Both the EU and CELAC countries have a genuine interest in increasing bilateral trade, investment and market integration through mutually beneficial relations.

Private sector has a key role in enhancing sustainable growth and creating quality jobs at a global level (also noted in the Commission Communication on private sector and development of May 2014), and acknowledged by the EU-CELAC Seminars on Corporate Social Responsibility.

A common challenge for both CELAC and Europe remains to consolidate sustainable and inclusive economic growth, create jobs, improve the business climate and the internationalisation of companies, in particular SMEs.

Building on the recommendations of the 2013 EU-CELAC Santiago Business Summit, the 2015 EU-CELAC Business Summit is an opportunity to build momentum and to enable Europe´s entrepreneurs and industry representatives and their Latin American and Caribbean counterparts to work together towards further investing in the industrialisation of their economies, promoting job creation, in particular for  the youth, skills development, tertiary and technical education and spurring innovation and economic growth. The 2015 EU-CELAC Business Summit is also a unique opportunity to bring together European and Latin American and Caribbean political and business leaders, companies, investors and financial institutions interested in deepening cooperation on business, investment and innovation.