San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica, Panama first to take advantage of new Association Agreement with Europe


A joint project between Panama and Costa Rica marks the first product of the European Union-Central America Association Agreement, an aid and trade accord between the regions signed in May.
Announced at a meeting of the Central American Integration System (SICA) in Guatemala last week, the project with Panama aims to strengthen border security, promote greater connectivity and facilitate integrated management and information sharing in border areas. 
The €5.5 million ($7 million) initiative will be funded primarily by the European Union and is the first project between SICA and the EU, according to the Costa Rican Foreign Ministry.
Border processes in Costa Rica have historically been slow and bureaucratic, a circumstance that Rafael Sánchez, a London-based analyst and author of “The Politics of Central American Integration” doesn’t see changing.
“Integration should mean that people can travel wherever they want within a region,” Sánchez told The Tico Times last year. “But countries like Costa Rica and Panama want to control who enters their countries. There is resistance, and there has always been resistance.”
Asked whether Central America could ever be similar to a European Union, Sánchez responded without hesitation, “It’s unthinkable that Central America could ever achieve the same level of integration, especially when there is opposition to the free movement of people and goods. Yet, the EU is the model and it will remain the model” (TT, Sept. 18).
After nearly three years of talks, negotiations for an Association Agreement came to a successful close in May. The agreement is expected to increase trade between the two regions, encourage Central American integration and boost emergency preparedness. It is the first region-to-region pact ever negotiated by the European Union.

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