Delegation of the European Union to Uruguay

Uruguay and the EU

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

Relations between the European Union (EU) and Uruguay have intensified since the Framework Cooperation Agreement was signed in 1992, improving political and economic dialogue, and at a regional level since the conclusion of EU-Mercosur Association Agreement negotiations in 2019. This last Agreement constitutes a clear commitment on the part of both blocs to rules-based international trade and will give firms and consumers from both sides a significant advantage at international level.

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 implies regular meetings through Joint Committees for the purposes of sharing information and discussing topics of interest.

Following the 1992 agreement, bilateral relations have expanded, and fostering relations with the EU has become a priority of Uruguay's foreign policy.

Bilateral relations acquired a new dimension with the EU's support for the Mercosur regional integration process and with the conclusion of EU-Mercosur negotiations towards an Association Agreementaimed in 2019, which - in addition to the trade objectives - aim to intensify political and cooperation relations between the two blocs.

EU Communication of the EU with Latin America and the Caribbean

The EU Communication with Latin America and the Caribbean established in 2018 is based on 4 basic principles:

1) Association for prosperity

Support for sustainable growth, decent employment and reduction of socio-economic inequalities. Transition to a digital, green and circular economy. Deepening of trade and investment relations. Emphasis on the importance of association/trade agreements.

2) Association for democracy

Strengthen human rights and democracy. Empower civil society, consolidate the rule of law and the effectiveness of institutions. Significance of the joint work carried out with Uruguay to launch ‘Good Human Rights Stories’ at the UNGA.

3) Partnership for resilience

Improve resilience against climate change, and for the environment and biodiversity. Fight organized crime and cooperate on migration and mobility. Join forces in the fight against climate change.

4) Partnership for effective global governance

Strengthen the multilateral system, in terms of tackling climate, the environment and trade, and deepening cooperation in relation to world peace and security. Foster comprehensive reform of the UN system, the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and reform of the WTO.

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. The EU is the top foreign investor in Uruguay. Companies such as UPM (cellulose), Montes del Plata (cellulose), Katoen Natie (logistics/port operations), Glencore (agriculture), Sofitel (tourism), Bayer (pharmaceuticals), Banco Santander (banking), 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.

Trade relations between the EU and Uruguay form part of the Framework Cooperation Agreement and are a pilar of the EU-Mercosur Association Agreement.

The EU is Uruguay's second-largest trade partner after China. The exchange of goods between the two blocs exceeds EUR 3,500 million. Trade in services between Uruguay and the EU has also experienced strong growth in recent years.

Exports of EU goods to Uruguay are dominated by machinery and chemicals, while imports are mainly of agricultural products and raw materials.

More specifically, the EU is a key market for high-quality Uruguayan beef and approximately 20% of exports of this product goes to the EU. Uruguay benefits from a specific high quality beef quota (the Hilton quota, of 6,376 tonnes) and is one of the few countries in the world that has access to the EU High Quality beef quota (EU Regulation 481/2012).

The EU and Mercosur

In the context of regional integration, following the Framework Cooperation Agreement of 1995, the EU and Mercosur began negotiations towards an inter-regional Association Agreement which lasted 20 years and were concluded in 2019.

The new trade framework, which is part of this broader Association Agreement between both regions, will consolidate a strategic political and economic partnership and will create important opportunities for sustainable growth for both parties, while respecting the environment and preserving the interests of consumers. This will consolidate the largest free trade space in the world, with more than 750 million inhabitants.

The EU continues to be the main trading partner for Mercosur and the leading investor in the region. Trade between the two blocs amounts to approximately EUR 100 thousand million.

Useful information:

Until 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 indigence. 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 2014, 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 third countries, such as Horizon 2020 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 2018. Uruguay also joined the EU-led “Alliance for Torture-Free Trade” at the second Ministerial meeting in New York in September 2018.

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.


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