Sommaire: EU-Central America: Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner to announce €840m aid programme during visit to Guatemala (17 April 2007: Brussels)
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On 18 April 2007 in Guatemala City, EU Commissioner for External Relations and Neighbourhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner will introduce the new aid programme that the European Commission is proposing for Central America for 2007-2013. This programme is a practical expression of the European Union's solidarity with the region and will help it cope with the challenges of the negotiations for the future association agreement. For each country of the region, the Commission has developed a strategy to support that country's political and social priorities, in particular good governance and democracy, justice, the environment and the fight against insecurity, inequality and poverty. The sums proposed for 2007-2013 are €34 million for Costa Rica, €121 million for El Salvador1, €135 million for Guatemala, €223 million for Honduras, €214 million for Nicaragua, €38 million for Panama and €75 million for regional cooperation.
In her statement, Benita Ferrero-Waldner welcomed the adoption of this programme by the Commission: "Our cooperation strategy with Central America is just one of the ways in which the European Commission is helping the countries of the region cope with the dual challenge of regional integration and social cohesion, and it will accompany the future association agreement between the two regions. It is a powerful symbol of our solidarity with Central America as we begin negotiations with our partners there for an association agreement that we are convinced will be enormously beneficial". She added: "In order to meet this objective, we have just adopted a new cooperation strategy that increases aid for the region by 25% over previous periods".
The European Union hopes to launch negotiations in the near future for an association agreement with Central America that will strengthen relations between the two regions. Financial aid to the region will be increased significantly, by nearly €200 million. The Commission's aim is to contribute to the economic and political development of the region while helping to reduce social inequality so that economic growth is distributed more equitably.
Costa Rica (€34 million)
For the period 2007-2013, the strategy will focus on strengthening social cohesion and supporting regional integration.
El Salvador (€121 million)
The strategy for El Salvador is mainly intended to foster social cohesion and human security, economic growth, regional integration and trade.
Guatemala (€135 million)
The primary areas for cooperation with Guatemala covered by the strategy are social cohesion and human security and economic growth and trade. Aid to Guatemala will help the country make the most of the consolidation of the regional integration process and future association agreement.
Honduras (€223 million)
The strategy for Honduras will focus on (1) strengthening social cohesion through the development of human capital (health, education), (2) sustainable management of natural resources, particularly forests, in order to reduce Honduras's persistent vulnerability to natural disasters, (3) poverty alleviation in rural areas and (4) the development of a global public security and justice policy.
Nicaragua (€214 million)
The Commission's strategy for Nicaragua is intended to support governance and, more particularly, to (1) consolidate democracy and the effective implementation of the rule of law, (2) invest in human capital, particularly in education, (3) guarantee macroeconomic stability and (4) integrate Nicaragua more closely into the world economy.
Panama (€38 million)
The strategy will focus on strengthening social cohesion and supporting regional integration.
The Commission has also proposed €75 million for regional cooperation with the primary objective of promoting regional integration under the future association agreement between the EU and Central America through support for regional institutions, common policies such as the customs union and good governance, including the security of regional trade.
During her visit, Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner will meet Oscar Berger, President of Guatemala, Vice-President Eduardo Stein, Minister for Foreign Affairs Gert Rosenthal, and other government representatives. The Commissioner will also sign two memoranda of understanding on cooperation priorities for the next seven years, one with the Guatemalan authorities and the other with the Secretariat-General of the Central American Integration System (SICA).
Regarding her visit to Guatemala, the Commissioner added "I came here not only to congratulate the Guatemalans for the progress they have achieved since the signing of the peace agreements ten years ago, but also to encourage the politicians to continue their efforts to ensure greater social cohesion and greater security for the entire population. On the eve of the elections, the country is still struggling with poverty, discrimination, insecurity and the impunity of those who victimise human-rights defenders among others. These phenomena particularly affect the most vulnerable members of society such as indingenous peoples, young people and women. The new strategy that we have proposed provides firm support for national policies aimed at making the peace agreements last. This will also enable Guatemala to profit fully from the new opportunities offered by an association agreement between our two regions".
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1 The Commission is currently adopting the cooperation programme for El Salvador.