PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has said that Ireland and the rest of Europe had a lot to learn from Latin America in terms of how it develops economically.
He said the EU was not going to recover from its current financial crisis by simply adopting a “return to business as usual approach”.
In his address to the University of Diego Portales in Santiago in Chile last night, President Higgins said South America was offering new models of economy and its connection with society.
Ahead of a summit between the EU and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in January, he said Europe needed to be willing to listen rather than Latin America looking towards it as a perfect model.
He said Ireland and a number of other EU member states were experiencing deep and sadly sustained recession that would only be solved through new thinking and innovative models.
“We cannot, I suggest, simply seek to return to business as usual, and revert to approaches that have failed our people with the consequences of such unacceptable levels of unemployment as affects more than half of our young people in several European countries,” he said.
President Higgins made his remarks on the first day of his official visit to South American where he is leading a trade delegation that also includes Minister of State for Trade and Development, Joe Costello.
Chile has an unemployment rate of about 6.5pc.
He said if the European project is to survive it required “a quality of thinking and an intellectual commitment” that included moral and social values such as reducing unemployment.
“The reality is that the biggest single problem Europe has is unemployment and therefore it is the issue of adjusting your economic models and allowing for a plurality of economic models such as would impact on different ways on the unemployment problem as it manifests itself,” he added.