Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner visits Central America and announces aid packages

FOCUS News Agency (Sofia) | 28 September 2007

Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner visits Central America and announces aid packages

Brussels. The European Commissioner for external relations and European neighbourhood policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, is to tour Central America from 30 September to 4 October, where she will visit, for the first time as a Commissioner, Panama (30 September to 1 October), El Salvador (1-2 October), Honduras (3 October) and Nicaragua (3-4 October), the press service of the European Commission reports.

Three weeks before the first round of negotiations on an Association Agreement between the EU and Central America to be held in Costa Rica at the end of October, Ms Ferrero-Waldner wishes to send a strong signal to the region of the importance the EU accords to this agreement. The Commissioner will meet the President and Foreign Affairs Minister of each country. She will also visit projects financed by the European Union and meet representatives of the press and civic society. In each country she will present the European Commission’s proposed new aid programmes for 2007-2013.

Before her tour, Benita Ferrero-Waldner said that "The Association Agreement with Central America will be an extremely important alliance. It will make us political partners jointly defending our interests in multilateral arenas and reinforcing our economic ties. This ambitious agreement confirms once more the long-term commitment of the European Union and Central America to a stronger association, both politically and economically, based on a reinforced process of regional integration."

The Association Agreement will be negotiated "region by region" to give added momentum to the Central American regional integration process. Its aim is to enhance political dialogue between the two regions, step up and improve cooperation in a wide variety of areas and increase and facilitate biregional economic ties, for example in trade and investment. The Agreement will be negotiated with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Panama will also take part in the negotiations once it joins the Central American economic integration process, SIECA.

For each of the Central American countries, the Commission has drawn up a strategy aimed at supporting its political and social priorities, with particular emphasis on governability and democracy, justice and the fight against insecurity, action against inequality and poverty, and the environment. The total amount proposed for 2007-2013 is €840 million, including €121 million for El Salvador, €223 million for Honduras, €214 million for Nicaragua and €38 million for Panama. €75 million has also been earmarked to support regional integration.