With a population of approximately 16.2 million, Ecuador is the most densely populated country in South America and is classified as an upper middle-income country. Ecuador has been one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America in recent years, which has directly reduced poverty and inequality levels and has increased the middle class.

However, significant challenges remain in terms of sustainability of these achievements and in ensuring sustainable, inclusive growth. While the national average poverty rate has decreased to 22.5% in 2014, another part of the population is still vulnerable to falling again below the poverty line. As an upper middle-income country, Ecuador should in principle graduate from the EU's bilateral cooperation under the DCI. However in December 2013, the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament decided to make an exception and continue cooperation with Ecuador for a phase-out period 2014-2017.

EU cooperation 2014-2017

The aim of the 2014-2017 programming (€67 million) is to consolidate the achievements of the previous cooperation programme 2007-2013 and to tackle the remaining development challenges in the poorest regions of the country. The EU will support the Government's willingness to diversify the country's economy and to foster sustainable trade.

EU cooperation 2007-2013

For the period 2007-2013, EU assistance for an amount of €141 million was allocated to two main focal sectors, namely education and sustainable economic growth. In the education sector, the EU particularly improved the quality and the access to education. Nowadays, more Ecuadorian children than ever have access to basic education; in 2015, more than 90% of all children were at school with an ever reducing gap between urban and rural enrolments.

The EU also finances activities in the area of food security, human rights, environment, migration and asylum, and co-finances projects with local authorities and non-governmental organisations. Ecuador will remain eligible for EU thematic and regional cooperation including after the phase-out period.