EU and Central-America in a new alliance

Most probably, the EU and five Central-American countries will sign a historical association agreement in the beginning of 2009. Oscar Arias, Nobel price winner for peace of 1987 and president of Costa Rica for the second time now, came to Europe to support the negotiations.

Arias won the most recent elections thanks to his support to the  much debated free trade-agreement with the US. He sees free trade as the best way to development and neglects criticism thereof by calling it non-essential problems. Arias: “I know the wide range of opinions on free trade agreements, but very often these people come from developed countries. For a country like ours, which is one the smallest on earth, it is simply impossible the produce everything ourself. In a time of globalisation the task facing developing countries is plain and simple: if we can’t export more and more services and products, we shall export more and more people.”

The association agreements fundamentally entail more than mere commercial arrangements. They also want to sustain development in the areas of democracy and human rights. One of the conditions the EU made, was the demand to all of the Central-American countries to ratify the statue of the International Court of Justice. But Guatemala and Nicaragua opposed this demand, and as a result the claim is now watered down to a general recommendation to the signing parties. Oscar Arias thinks the commercial part of the agreement shows a clear asymmetry in favor of Central-America. Tariff rates putting a disadvantage for Central-America will disappear for instance.

Oscar Arias’ speech in the European parliament wasn’t a cry for help but a plea of a self-conscious head of state. Central-America is little but not unimportant for Europe according to Arias: “In times of international crisis, Europe can obtain advantages in the economy of our region, of which the  growth the last five years nearly doubles the development speed of the European economy.” Europe has an historical bond with Central-America. It offered vital moral and financial support in the peace process when Central-America was torn apart by civil wars. ‘The relation between Europe and Central-America, which was so intense during wartime, seems to be much cold down in peace time. We never thought that, once we finally attained peace, we would disappear into oblivion. It feels like we are punished.”

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