Supporting security and the rule of law, disaster management and the fight against climate change, will be among the priorities for EU Development Assistance in the period 2014-2020. EU funds will be made available to that end, as well as to improve regional integration across Central America, as announced by European Development Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs.
Speaking ahead of an official visit to the region, during which the Commissioner will visit Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador, he outlined that support for 2014-2020 to Central America is expected to be around EUR 900 million. Subject to final approval by the Council and European Parliament, the new funds would include bilateral cooperation with El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, as well as regional cooperation (which also includes Costa Rica and Panama).
Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said: "Central America is now on average a medium-low income region, but there are still real differences amongst the different countries. In line with the recent Agenda for Change - the EU’s blueprint to refocus our aid to make it as effective as possible - we are determined to make sure our support reaches those countries, and sectors, which need it most. This way we are ensuring that our aid to the region will be better targeted and more efficient."
In Nicaragua, for example, the poorest country in Central America, 46% of the population lives on less than $2 a day, while in Costa Rica and Panama the percentage of people living in poverty is 24% and 29%, respectively.
During his visit, which takes place from 4th-10th October, Commissioner Piebalgs is expected to meet Presidents Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Mauricio Funes of El Salvador, and ministers and representatives from civil society, as well as visiting projects in the field.
Besides the support it provides to each country bilaterally, the EU is the leading donor to the Central America Integration System and its institutions, committing EUR 95 million since 2007. This support has been concentrated in three areas: regional integration, customs union and common policies, and regional governance and security.
The Central American region has established a comprehensive relationship with the EU, which includes political dialogue, cooperation and a favourable trade regime. An Association Agreement between the EU and Central America was signed in 2012. The agreement's trade part is provisionally applied with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. Provisional application will soon be extended to cover Guatemala.
The main recipients of regional projects' support are the institutions of the Central American Integrations System (SICA). SICA was set up to promote Central America's integration, with an emphasis on democracy, respect for human rights, and the establishment of equitable development for the people of Central America.
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