Venezuela, the seventh largest country in Latin America, has a population of 30 million inhabitants. With both a Caribbean and an Atlantic coastline, it is considered one of the world's most ecologically diverse countries, with four distinct geographical regions. The country has great potential for sustainable economic and social development. In the current economic situation however the uneven income distribution is widening.
The country's economy is heavily dependent on the energy sector. Energy accounts for some 30% of GDP and more than 90% of export revenues, making the economy vulnerable to oil price fluctuations. Diversifying the economy and the country's export base is therefore a major challenge.
In 2012, Venezuela became a member of Mercosur. Mercosur (Mercado Común del Sur) is a Regional Trade Agreement among Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay founded in 1991 with the Treaty of Asunción, which was amended and updated with the 1994 Treaty of Ouro Preto. Its purpose is to promote free trade and the smooth movement of goods, people and currency.
Following the agenda for change, the EU concentrated its bilateral aid allocation on lower middle income countries. Therefore, due to its high middle income country status, Venezuela is not eligible for bilateral cooperation for the 2014-2020 programming period, but is able to participate in all regional programmes, as well as in thematic cooperation.
The EU also finances activities under thematic programmes, mainly through the Civil Society Organisations/Local Authorities programme and the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, to support initiatives from civil society organisations. At present, 14 thematic projects are ongoing in Venezuela in the fields of human rights, democracy, environment including climate change, vocational training of youth, empowerment of women and citizens' participation in local development.
Bilateral cooperation 2007-2013
The main priorities identified in the financial period 2007-2013 for Venezuela, with an EU financial allocation of €40 million, were the modernisation of the State and the diversification of the economy. The most tangible results were achieved through support for land registry reform (CARCAVEN project) and fight against drug trafficking (DROGASTOP project).