I've just come back from a visit to these two beautiful countries – which are both great examples of the EU's commitment to engage in more effective and innovative partnerships with countries at all stages of development.
Visiting Costa Rica was a bit like visiting an old friend! It's Europe's closest ally, both in the region and in international fora, on key issues like human rights, gender equality and climate change. Costa Rica was the first country to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals into their national plans.
I had very positive meetings with President Luis Guillermo Solís and Foreign Minister Manuel González Sanz. Their personal drive and commitment has been essential in strengthening our new modern partnership with Costa Rica. Since it became a middle-income country, our collaboration has actually increased, meaning more impact through greater innovation and coordination.
Take for example our EU-funded projects for women's empowerment, which we're working on with the support of Vice-President Ana Helena Chacón, and Minister for Women Alejandra Mora Mora among others. I was particularly humbled and moved to speak to a number of women whose lives have directly benefited from our support at a fair showcasing their local produce.