During his first ever visit to Guatemala this week, EU Development Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, will discuss priorities for future EU assistance with the Guatemalan authorities and civil society. Mr Piebalgs is also expected to reaffirm the EU’s ongoing commitment to cooperation with Guatemala.
The official visit follows yesterday’s announcement that the EU would provide up to EUR 775 million for bilateral assistance with Nicaragua, Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras (subject to the final approval by the Council and the European Parliament) between 2014-2020. EUR 120 million in support to regional projects in Central America between 2014-2020 was also announced. EU cooperation with Guatemala is expected to focus on food security, violence and conflict prevention and economic competitiveness going forward. Pending approval by the European Parliament and the European Council, the bilateral allocation for Guatemala for 2014-2020 is expected to be EUR 186 million.
Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said: "Guatemala has made impressive progress in terms of education and the eradication of poverty, but huge challenges, such as very high malnutrition levels, still remain. By better targeting our future funding to make sure it focuses on key sectors, we will do all we can to make sure that we continue to help those most in need."
During the visit, Commissioner Piebalgs is expected to meet President Otto Pérez Molina to hear about the main challenges Guatemala faces, and discuss how the EU can assist in tackling its problems. The Commissioner will also meet with Attorney General, Claudia Paz y Paz, who has played an important role in reducing impunity in the country.
The Commissioner will take time to visit local projects, for example, food security projects, with Hambre Cero (Zero Hunger), a project combatting violence against women and the INACIF forensic science laboratory.
Following on from his visit last week to the UN General Assembly, which focused on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) — and post-2015 agenda, the Commissioner will also examine Guatemalan progress on the MDGs. Although there has been significant improvement in education, with almost universal access to primary school, maternal health is still considered to be ‘off track’. The country also has the highest chronic malnutrition rate in Latin America, with 43 % of children under the age of 5 suffering from malnutrition.
Guatemala is a low middle income country which features huge inequalities between the area around the capital and the poorest, remote rural areas which are predominantly inhabited by Indigenous Peoples. It is the country with the highest percentage of Indigenous Peoples in Central America (approximately 50%).
However, Guatemala also has biggest economy in Central America, with a GDP of USD 50.8 billion. Economic growth is projected to reach 3.5% in 2013. However, informal trade is very high, at 75% of total employment.
The EUR 120 million for regional projects from 2014-2020 will cover Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.
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