The framework for EU cooperation with Central America
EU cooperation with the six Central American countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama) was shaped by the San Jose Dialogue. Initiated in 1984, the dialogue was set up to support the peace processes and efforts of democratisation in the region. However, subsequently, the dialogue was since broadened to economic and social development, migration and human security. Following the first two cooperation agreements concluded in 1985 and 1993, a Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement was signed in 2003, introducing various new areas of cooperation.
In June 2012, the first region-to-region Association Agreement was concluded between the EU and the six Central American countries. The agreement is based on three pillars – political dialogue, cooperation and trade.
The trade pillar of this agreement has been provisionally implemented since December 2013, introducing gradual free trade between the two regions. The completion of the Association Agreement ratification process by the EU Member States will activate the political dialogue and cooperation pillars. Meanwhile, the latter two are dealt with in the framework of the above-mentioned 1993 Political Dialogue and Cooperation agreement. The Association Agreement provides the framework to work jointly to address the global challenges in the region.
EU cooperation with Central America
As part of the Agenda for Change, with the view of increasing the impact of EU Development Policy, the EU refocused its aid to enhance results and sustainable development. For 2014-2020 the EU maintains bilateral cooperation with El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. For Costa Rica and Panama, the EU engages in a more strategic relationship, in which it seeks solutions on matters of common concern via regional cooperation, thematic programmes and new financial instruments.
In financial terms, an indicative amount of €775 million has been allocated for bilateral cooperation to Guatemala (€186.8 million), El Salvador (€149 million), Honduras (€235 million) and Nicaragua (€204 million). In addition, €120 million have been earmarked for sub-regional programmes in Central America in three key areas:
1. Regional economic integration (€40 million);
2. Security and the rule of law (€40 million);
3. Climate change and disaster management (€35 million)
Regional cooperation represents a unique opportunity to address common challenges and boost shared prosperity. Compared to the 2007-2013 allocation (€95 million), the allocation for Central America has been increased by over 30%. Areas of cooperation have evolved for the period: whereas in the past, cooperation was mainly focused on social cohesion and economic growth, the current programming exercise responds to emerging human security needs of the population, with trade facilitation, judicial cooperation and management strategies to mitigate disasters and their effects. These areas are in line with the priorities defined through the Central American Integration System (SICA).