European Union External Action

Costa Rica and the European Union

Political relations between Costa Rica and the European Union have historically been very strong. Both regions initiated a very fruitful and mutually beneficial dialogue: the San José dialogue of 1984. This process, along with growing political engagement and a commitment to cooperation between the EU and Central America, was a result of both regions' desire to find, together with the Contadora Group (Colombia, Mexico, Panama and Venezuela), negotiated solutions to the violent crisis that ravaged the Central American isthmus.

Over the years the dialogue has been expanded, adapting to the new reality in the Central American region. The Framework Cooperation Agreement, signed in February 1993 between Europe and Central America, expanded the topics covered to include economic cooperation and traditional cooperation on development and, in addition, cooperation programmes in the areas of science, technology, environmental protection, the fight against drugs, and respect for human rights.

Other agreements and projects in which Costa Rica takes part have followed this one. The most ambitious of these is the recently concluded comprehensive Association Agreement between the EU and Central America.

The European Union is a major trading partner for Costa Rica; according to the Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat), the EU imports 60.72 % of the Central American region's total exports from Costa Rica. In the last decade, trade with Costa Rica grew by 20 %, from €3.832 billion in 2004 to €4.6 billion in 2014. 

Currently, the European Union is the third largest market for Costa Rican exports (18 %), after North America (41 %) and Central America (20 %); more than 570 companies export close to 900 products to the EU. The European Union imports bananas, coffee, integrated circuits and electronic microassemblies, medical devices, juices and fruit concentrates from Costa Rica.

As for Costa Rica's imports, the European market currently ranks third (8.2 %), after North America (52.1 %) and Asia (20.7 %), and before Central America (7.3 %) and South America (6.6 %). Costa Rica imports 15.82 % of the Central American region's total imports from the European market. The main export products from the European Union include medicines, antiserums, cars and generators.

Direct foreign investment (DFI) in Costa Rica is mainly in advanced and light manufacturing (45 %), agriculture (25 %, mainly bananas and coffee) and other investments (railroad lines, tobacco, telecommunications, airlines, government bonds and real estate).

In 2014, DFI originating from the EU was approximately 18.5 % of the total received by the country. Spain stood out as the main origin of DFI from the EU (54 %), followed by Italy (20 %) and Germany (16 %).

Costa Rica provides new business opportunities for European companies, especially in sectors that are part of global value chains such as:

  • the service sector (call centres, digital technologies, shared and back office services);
  • the life sciences sector (biotechnology, medical devices, clinical trials);
  • green technologies (wind and solar power);
  • advanced manufacturing (aerospace and electronics);
  • infrastructure (roads, ports and airports). 

In its relations with Costa Rica, the European Union has emphasised its work with civil society members. In its contact with this sector, the overriding goal has been to build a closer relationship with all social actors. To achieve this end, there are cooperation programmes for specific issues such as human rights and democracy, the environment and non-governmental actors, all managed through calls for proposals.

Costa Rica actively participates in regional programmes for Latin America such as the Seventh Framework Programme on Science and Technology.

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