San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

C.R. Signs Agreement With European Commission

Costa Rica may be sidestepping the rest of Central America in establishing trade relations with the European Commission, a body that acts as an executive of the European Union.

On Wednesday, representatives from Costa Rica and the European Commission signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote “cooperation and common understanding in all aspects that are part of the agenda linking Costa Rican and the European Community.”

According to a statement from the Costa Rican Foreign Ministry, the document will complement the Association Agreement with Central America, which is being negotiated. It is expected to be completed before May 2010.

“With the signing of this agreement, the European Commission is recognizing the achievements and the weight of the oldest democracy in Latin America,”said Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno at a meeting this week in Brussels with Foreign Trade Minister Marco Vinicio Ruiz, Costa Rica’s Ambassador to the European Union Roberto Echandi and European Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, as well as other European authorities.

“(The European Commissioner) is viewing Costa Rica as a key player in the region, as a partner with which it can work to effectively meet the challenges derived from an international and regional context that is increasingly complex,” Stagno said.

The agreement opens doors for Costa Rica, allowing for meetings with a senior European official at least once a year. With the exception of Mexico and Chile, which already have association agreements, the European Commission has set up similar arrangements with Brazil, Peru and Colombia.

“It is important to recognize that Costa Rica is the European Union’s largest trading partner in Central America,” said Ruiz. “Hence, it is logical that the European Commission has been eager to establish a communication channel and direct interaction with Costa Rica.”

The Association Agreement between the European Commission and Central America has been in formal negotiations since October 2007. The political turmoil in Honduras and conflicts over banana exports interrupted the talks, but top officials expect some finality before the European Union-Latin America and Caribbean Summit in Madrid, Spain, in May 2010. Central American integration was a prerequisite for an Association Agreement with Europe.

–Chrissie Long

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