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European Commission


Brussels, 3 October 2013

EU relations and development cooperation with Central America

EU Development Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, is this week visiting Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

Although Central America is now, on average, a medium-low income region, there are still real poverty gaps amongst the different countries. 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.

EU Work with Central America

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 is already applied by Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama, Costa Rica and Salvador. It will soon be extended to cover Guatemala.

The EU is the leading donor to the Central America Integration System and its institutions.

From 2007 to 2013, the EU provided €214 million bilateral support for Nicaragua, €121 million for El Salvador and €135 million for Guatemala.

In the same period the EU also provided €95 million in regional programmes covering Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama. This support focused on: regional integration, customs union and common policies, and regional governance and security.

For 2014-2020, the following three areas are expected to be the focus of EU support: regional economic integration, security and rule of law, disaster management and climate change.

Central America Integration System (SICA)

The main recipients of regional projects are the institutions of the Central American Integrations System (SICA). SICA was set up to carry out the integration of Central America, with an emphasis on democracy, respect for human rights, and putting in place a system of welfare, and social and economic justice for the people of Central America.

Country Focus:


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.

EU Support

Between 2007-2013, the Commission provided €135 million in funding for: social cohesion and public safety (35%) economic growth and regional integration (65%)

Projects in focus

The PRESANCA project was set up in order to help people affected by the food and nutritional crisis in the region, particularly women and children (a situation made worse by a succession of natural causes eg Hurricane Mitch, and the fall in coffee prices.) The project helps put in place information systems in order to raise awareness of food insecurity at both a national and local level. It also provides emergency responses during a food crisis.

Women and children across the border regions of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua are expected to benefit from the project. In particular, it will help improve the living conditions of the population in 22 municipalities in the Huehuetenango Department in Guatemala.

Access to justice in conditions of equality in Guatemala

This EU project helped to implement the Constitution of Guatemala, which states that anyone arrested for a crime or offence must appear in front of a jury within 24 hours of their arrest. Before this law was implemented, people detained for a crime or offence could be kept in prison for days before the judicial authorities resolved the situation.

As a result of the programme, to which the EU committed €10 million, the number of detentions overseen by the National Civil Police was reduced by 65% to 15% and anyone arrested was seen by a judge with 24 hours. Approximately five million people are thought to have benefitted.


Nicaragua is the second poorest country of Latin America, after Haiti.

EU Support

€214 million was allocated for Nicaragua by the EU between 2007 and 2013, with a focus on good governance, education and economic and trade issues.

Projects in Focus

Integrated project in the outskirts of Managua (PROMAPER)

This project was integrated in the Regional Programme for the Reconstruction of Central America, an action plan to assist reconstruction after the devastating effects of the Mitch hurricane.

The general aim of this project has been to contribute to improving the health and welfare of Ciudad Sandino inhabitants, one of the municipalities of the outskirts of Managua, as well as in other suburbs of the peripheral areas of Managua. It installed about 30 Km of pipes and 70 Km of sewers to improve drinkable water access and wastewater infrastructure. It supported local initiatives of economic and social development by building around 200 new houses and restoring another 400.

Fighting youth poverty in Chinandega, Nicaragua

Nicaragua has a young population, but a high rate of youth unemployment which prevents economic development causes social problems and high emigration flows.

This EU project, to which the EU committed €727,930, was set up to reduce poverty and improve living conditions by developing economic opportunities for young men and women.

A Municipal centre for employment and entrepreneurship was set up within the town hall in Chinandega and its database already contains the details of 2,200 young people. This is directly connected to the communication system of the Ministry of Employment. Thank to this system, 65 young people have already been able to improve their income and living conditions.

El Salvador

El Salvador is a lower middle income country with significant poverty and income distribution challenges. It is the most densely populated country in the mainland American continent.

EU support

Between 2007 and 2013, €121 million was provided for El Salvador. This was spent on two main areas: fostering social cohesion and economic growth and regional integration and trade.

Projects in Focus

PACSES- support to the Programme Comunidades Solidarias

The Salvadorian government is making special effort to work for the poor and increase the provision of public services, though its national programme Comunidades Solidarias. With the PACSES programme, the EU is supporting this national policy with a contribution of €47 million.

Members of the Salvadoran population who live in extreme and severe poverty conditions in rural and urban areas are seeing their basic services improved. Priority is given to women (heads of households, young women), children, youth at risk and the elderly. The Government target is around 13.5% of the total population (around 750,000 persons).

The results of the project achieved so far are: 30 % of people older than 70 covered by basic pension; 226,000 families receiving preventive medical care by teams for family healthcare, seven functioning offices for the prevention of violence against women; 70.1% of the population in the municipalities covered by the programme with access to drinking water and basic sanitation; 84.8% of population in the municipalities provided with access to electricity; 2.021 households in precarious urban settlements with access to drinking water and basic sanitation; 10% of women trained in non-traditional skills.

Cihuatan Youth Project

Violence against women has historically been a problem in El Salvador, and there is a lack of awareness of the issue; both socially and in national policy. This project, to which the EU provided €597,259 was set up to improve the psychosocial, work and economic situation of women and young people in the zone north of San Salvador.

It has benefitted some 47,800 people and has led to the creation of a local network for adolescent women, the training of 30 local operators who provide support to young people at risk, the setting up of workshops and school spaces for training; and lessons for 60 women on how to set up their own business.

Regional Focus


EURO-SOLAR is a European Commission programme designed to reduce poverty by giving isolated rural communities with no access to electricity a renewable source of electrical energy. Its total budget is €36 million.

EURO-SOLAR has been implemented in Latin America’s eight poorest countries (based on the UN Human Development Index): Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Peru.

EURO-SOLAR provided solar or wind power supply to remote rural communities without electricity access, by installing some 600 electrification kits using photovoltaic or hybrid power systems (wind/photovoltaic). The communities also received a wide range of electrical appliances: computers, internet connections, telephones, printer/scanners, battery chargers, projectors, medical refrigeration equipment, water purifiers and lighting.

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