EU Mulls Diplomatic Reach-Out To Sway Four Key Partners Away From Russia, China


By Alexandra Brzozowski 

(EurActiv) — Brazil, Chile, Nigeria, and Kazakhstan are four key “priority countries” the EU aims to keep close in its efforts to deal with Russia and contain China, according to an internal memo seen by EURACTIV.

“We find ourselves in a competitive geopolitical environment: not only a battle of narratives but also a battle of offers,” the document, circulated earlier this week by the EU’s diplomatic service (EEAS), states.

“We need to improve our offer and enhance our relationship with them,” it adds.

EU foreign affairs ministers were expected to discuss the strategy document dubbed ‘EU Action Plan on the geopolitical consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on third countries’ at their regular meeting in Luxembourg on Monday (24 April) in the context of the bloc’s response to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The country choice seems obvious, as each of the designated four countries represents a powerhouse in its respective region.

Brazil and Chile are being increasingly seen as desired options for Europe’s diversification in raw materials-rich Latin America,  generally seen as the region “most aligning with our values and goals”, according to an EU senior diplomat.

Nigeria, meanwhile, is an economic powerhouse in West Africa that is likely to overtake China as the world’s second most populous country by 2100.

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Kazakhstan has reemerged as an influential player in the region, taking a more assertive stance in its relations with Moscow and a more confident one in relations with the West. It also holds vast oil and gas reserves in Central Asia that can help diversify away from Russian energy sources.

The memo comes at a time when, fourteen months into the Ukraine war, the EU is scrambling to keep support for Ukraine coherent and running, while increasingly trying to provide an alternative to Russian and Chinese narratives in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

The document mostly focuses on carrots, rather than sticks, towards the four designated countries, which it states is a ‘pilot group’.

Next to potential trade agreements, the document mostly highlights what the EU can offer those four in the area of energy, migration, economic development, or security coordination.

Brazil and Chile

For Brazil, the document sees an opening with the country’s recent change of power from far-right nationalist Jair Bolsonaro to leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

“The current government shows sign of willingness to step up cooperation,” the Brazil country analysis states.

Brazil wants to “be recognised and treated as a global actor” and is seeking to “improve EU market access for agricultural products”, the document adds.

However, referring to the challenges, the document states that the EU “is concerned” about Lula’s indication of wanting to re-open the Mercosur Agreement, also stressing his focus on deindustrialisation, which “could turn protectionist” and the country’s “lack of delivery on climate, environment, and sanitary approval of EU products”.

It also expresses unease about “China’s footprint” in Brazil’s bid to join an international World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement.

The document identifies trade as an opportunity for EU engagement, stressing that moving ahead on the long-stalled EU-Mercosur agreement with South American countries “will be of key importance”.

“A structure for strengthening engagement is already in place since the EU has an existing strategic partnership that can be revived,” the document states, in a likely reference also to the bloc’s new EU-Latin America strategy, set to be presented next week.

Chile, which also recently elected a left-wing leader in Gabriel Boric, is seen as an ally on green policies and a “voice of strong support on Ukraine,” although the country’s “far-left questions trade agreements”.

The memo does acknowledge the EU should try to “reduce China’s growing influence in Chile” as the country would want to see the EU “as an alternative to the US-China dilemma.”

Finalising a tariff-slashing EU-Chile economic agreement, which has been in the works since December but has not been ratified yet, could be an approach to draw the country closer, the memo states, but points out that Chile has voiced “annoyance at the long and complex internal EU procedures” delaying the agreement.


The EU and the five Central Asian countries have over the past year reiterated their intention to strengthen overall cooperation as discomfort grew over the impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine on the region.

On Kazakhstan, the memo calls those changes “momentous”, pointing out that the country actively wants more EU cooperation, more high-level visits from EU officials and “public EU support for its reform agenda”.

A key EU priority would be to “ensure there is no circumvention of international sanctions” imposed on Russia via Kazakhstan. The document lists the “negative economic consequences of Kazakhstan’s policy of preventing circumvention” as a challenge to be addressed by the EU in its cooperation with Astana.

The EU could also support the country, which wants to avoid sending its crude oil through Russia, and encourage it to “export more oil to the EU,” the memo suggests.

It stresses that from the EU side, “much is currently being done” with Kazakhstan, for example through the EU’s Global Gateway, “where transport connectivity will be key, and on critical raw materials, where a memorandum of understanding was signed”,

In terms of carrots, the document states Kazakhstan is seeking visa-free travel for its citizens and suggests the EU could strike a bloc-wide air service deal with the country.


On Nigeria, the memo stresses the need for “more high-level political engagement, EU support for some of Nigeria’s ambitions on the global stage, and a broadened EU approach to migration to cover also mobility”.

Nigeria is seeking “more legal migration opportunities” and less strict visa rules, which would make easing legal entrance into the EU a central point to the country, while for the EU side, the emphasis would lie less on legal migration and “particularly on returns and readmission” instead.

The memo lists as a challenge “the EU’s refusal of financial support for new gas projects as gas is not considered a “transition fuel”.


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