The European Union Delegation to Egypt

Uruguay and the EU

10/05/2016 - 15:24
EU relations with Country

Relations between the European Union (EU) and Uruguay have become stronger since the Framework Cooperation Agreement was signed in 1992, improving political and economic dialogue. Uruguay is also an active participant in relations between the EU and Mercosur.

The EU and Uruguay signed the Framework Cooperation Agreement in 1992 to promote bilateral relations with the aim of increasing cooperation with regard to trade, finance and technology, among other things.

The agreement sets up regular meetings through Joint Committees for the purposes of sharing information and discussing topics of interest. Specifically, the ninth Joint Committee meeting between Uruguay and the EU took place in Montevideo on 5 June 2014.

Following the 1992 agreement, bilateral relations have been extended, and fostering relations with the EU has been established as a priority in Uruguay's foreign policy.

Bilateral relations have taken on a new dimension with the EU's support for the Mercosur regional integration process and with the progression of EU-Mercosur negotiations aimed at strengthening political, trade and cooperative relations between the two blocs.

At a regional level, relations with Uruguay are also developed within the context of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), through discussions together with other countries and regional groups. 

The EU's economic relations with Uruguay have continued to strengthen in recent years. Despite the difficult international situation, flows of capital and direct investment from Europe to Uruguay have been growing. Companies such as UPM (cellulose), Montes del Plata (cellulose), Katoen Natie (logistics/port operations), Glencore (agriculture), Sofitel (tourism), Bayer (pharmaceuticals), Banco Santander, BBVA (banking) and Movistar (telecommunications), among others, are active participants in Uruguay's economy. This is testament to the great potential for growth that exists for Uruguay's economic relations with the EU. The EU is Uruguay's biggest investor. In 2014, European investment stock in Uruguay exceeded €6 billion (source: Eurostat). 

Trade relations between the EU and Uruguay form part of the Framework Cooperation Agreement.

The EU is Uruguay's third-biggest trade partner, with an 11 % share of the Latin American country's exports and a 15 % share of its imports in 2015, putting it behind only China and Brazil. In 2015, the volume of goods exchanged between the two blocs exceeded €3.6 billion, up 30 % from the previous year.

Exports to Uruguay are dominated by machinery and chemical products, while imports are mainly agricultural products and raw materials.

In particular, the EU is a key market for high-quality Uruguayan beef and the destination for almost 21 % of exports of this product, as Uruguay benefits from a specific high-quality quota (Hilton quota: 6 300 tonnes) and is one of the few countries in the world that has access to the EU High-Quality beef quota (Regulation EU 481/2012, 48 200 tonnes).

Exports of services to Uruguay have also grown considerably in recent years, increasing from €800 million in 2010 to almost €1.3 billion in 2014.

The EU and Mercosur

In the context of regional integration, following the Framework Cooperation Agreement of 1995, the EU and Mercosur began preparing an Interregional Association Agreement, which is currently under negotiation. The difficulty of this process, which was relaunched in 2010, reflects the significance of managing to bring the two regions together and create the largest free-trade area in the world, with more than 750 million residents. The agreement will strengthen political dialogue and cooperation and expand economic and trade relations between the regions. On 11 May 2016, for the first time since negotiations were restarted, proposals were exchanged in the areas of access to goods, services and government procurement.

The EU remains Mercosur's main trade partner and the biggest investor in the region. In 2015, trade between the two blocs amounted to €93 456 billion (€49 267 billion in exports from the EU to Mercosur and €44 189 billion in imports). European investment stock in Mercosur exceeded €410 million in 2014.

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Between 2007 and 2013, the EU's cooperation with Uruguay focused on three priority areas: social and territorial cohesion, technological innovation, research and development, and justice.

The rapid growth of the Uruguayan economy (which grew by 5.2 % per year on average between 2004 and 2014) and significant improvements in social indicators have set Uruguay apart from its Latin American neighbours as an egalitarian society with a high per-capita income, a low level of inequality and an almost complete absence of poverty. In relative terms, it has the largest middle class in Latin America.

As a result of these advances, in 2013 Uruguay began to be considered a high-income country, meaning that, as of the 2014-2015 financial year, it was no longer eligible for bilateral cooperation with the EU. However, Uruguay is still able to take part in other cooperation programmes, such as regional programmes for Latin America, thematic programmes (for civil society organisations or the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights) and other EU programmes open to other countries, such as the Horizon 2020 programme and Erasmus+.

Overview of the human rights and democracy situation

Uruguay is an established and effective democracy. It enjoys considerable political and economic stability, with a robust rule of law. It is considered one of the most transparent and least corrupt countries of the world. The overall human rights situation in Uruguay remains positive and stable, with fundamental freedoms and human rights respected overall. Noteworthy legislative advances have been made in 2018 (a Comprehensive Law against Exploitation and Human Trafficking; a Law modifying the Code of Criminal Procedure; a Comprehensive Law on Transvestite, Transsexual and Transgender People; a Law on Labour Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in the Private Sector; a Law on the Recognition and Protection of Stateless Persons). Nonetheless, lack of financial and human resources hinder somewhat their effective implementation. In spite of gender-related legislative progress, an important surge of gender-based violence could be observed recently. Deficiencies remain in terms of addressing discrimination against Afro-descendants and the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) community and improvements are needed in the anti-discrimination policy. The use of extended pre-trial detention is resulting in prison overcrowding and the related negative consequences. A similar situation can be observed in juvenile detention centres.

EU action

Key focus areas:

• eradicating all forms of violence and discrimination against women,

• promoting gender equality and cultivating an overall environment of non-discrimination, with special attention to the LGBTI community, persons with disabilities, elderly and Afro-descendants.

To this effect the EU Delegation in Uruguay engages proactively with the Uruguayan civil society, in particular through the annual structured dialogue, and carried out several major public events.

EU bilateral political engagement

In 2018, the EU Delegation launched an EU Human Rights Award to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It provided well-deserved visibility to the Uruguayan civil society and was on occasion to strengthen the already positive relations between the EU and key Uruguayan human rights institutions and civil society organisations. The participation of the Head of the Human Rights Secretariat of the Presidency of Uruguay contributed to increase visibility and impact of the event. .

The EU Delegation carried out awareness activities promoting gender equality both in Montevideo and in the interior of the country. In addition, three discussion panels entitled "Gender equality, commitment for all" were organised, as well as a panel on "Women in Science". In partnership with UN Women, International Labour Organisation (ILO), and the Uruguayan Presidency, the EU Delegation launched a regional project to promote gender equality in the private sector ("Ganar Ganar"). In order to give further visibility and enhance the impact of the project Ganar Ganar, the EU Delegation ensured the direct involvement of President Vázquez, who participated in the official launch of the project, providing greater media coverage and a wider outreach.

Addressing non-discrimination, the Delegation organised a volunteering activity to support the "Teletón", a foundation assisting children with disabilities. Additional activities were carried out in partnership with EU-financed projects "Vejez + Activa" (supporting the elderly) and "Horizonte de Libertades" (facilitating integration of discriminated adolescents).

EU financial engagement

The EU is financing the following projects in Uruguay:

  • "Uruguay mira la trata" (total cost: 511.000 Euros) studies trafficking in human beings in Uruguay, implements capacity building activities and promotes public policies. The analysis of the situation has started and contributions have been provided during the consultations for the Comprehensive Law against Exploitation and Human Trafficking.
  • "Cooperación con equidad" (total cost: 467.172 Euros) empowers the political participation and the socio-economic rights of women working in the cooperative sector.
  • "Horizonte de libertades" (total cost: 530.249 Euros) contributes to the social, economic, cultural and political integration of discriminated adolescents. The project raised awareness and enhanced citizen participation in the law-making process of the 2018 Comprehensive Law on Transvestite, Transsexual and Transgender People.
  • "Más Conocimiento, Más Participación, Más Derechos" (total cost: 520.000 Euros) promotes the full exercise of children and adolescents' rights. The project established a monitoring system for the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as raised awareness and strengthened engagement of the youth.
  • "Vejez + Activa" (total cost: 742.948 Euros) contributes to the development of the national care system and to the quality of the provided care services.
  • "Red Calle" (total cost: 473.817 Euros) seeks to improve the living conditions of the homeless by strengthening national policies and sharing experiences with Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica and Paraguay.
  • "Ganar Ganar" (total cost: 1 million Euros) promotes gender equality in the private sector. So far 30 Uruguayan enterprises committed to apply Women Empowerment Principles.

Multilateral context

Uruguay is a founding member of the United Nations and is strongly committed to multilateralism. It is a reliable and trustworthy partner for the EU across a wide range of issues, including human rights. Uruguay was elected for a seat at the UN Human Rights Council for the 2019-2021 period, following a successful campaign based on its achievements.

In 2019, Uruguay will be scrutinised by the 32nd session of the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism. It is strongly committed to the process and to civil society participation. Uruguay has set up a permanent voluntary dialogue with civil society with the objective to define the country's response to the UPR issued recommendations.

Uruguay was one of thirteen countries, alongside the EU, launching the new global initiative to promote “Good Human Rights Stories” in the margins of the 73rd UN General Assembly in New York in September. Uruguay also joined the EU-led “Alliance for Torture-Free Trade” at the second Ministerial meeting in New York in September.

The EU has a strategic plan for humanitarian aid for Uruguay through the disaster preparedness programme (DIPECHO).

Through its humanitarian aid, the European Commission not only provides assistance in emergencies, but also seeks to ensure that advance preparation is in place for the risk of natural disasters.

The range of projects includes training, awareness-raising, risk mapping, emergency plans, early-warning systems and mitigation projects.

Through DIPECHO, the EU allocated €47.5 million to risk prevention in South America between 1998 and 2011.

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