Latin America and the Caribbean

Bilateral relations between Austria and Latin America and the Caribbean

Bilateral relations between Austria and the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean are traditionally good and friendly. The exchange of high level visits has further increased. The economic growth of the Latin American and Caribbean region, characterized also by enormous resource abundance, had positive effects on Austrian companies. Especially exports to most of the states in the region have virtually jumped to new levels. Austria’s industry has proven particularly competitive in the energy sector. The close cooperation in the fields of science and research that exists with many countries of the region acted as a good basis for an enduring and long-lasting cultivation of relations.

There are strong Austrian links to the Caribbean region. Austria has observer status at the Caribbean regional organizations CARICOM (Caribbean Community) and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). Since 2010 biennially, young Caribbean diplomats receive training at the Diplomatic Academy in the field of Austrian and EU foreign policy. The Caribbean region has been a focus region of Austria’s development cooperation since 2007, whereby the collaboration with CARICOM based on a memorandum of understanding signed in 2008, is key. Target areas are regional programmes in the fields of disaster risk management, renewable energy and energy efficiency as well as capacity development. Cooperation with multilateral organizations and bilateral partners complements Austria’s engagement.

Austria enjoys an excellent reputation as a European cultural nation in the entire Latin American and Caribbean region. Austrian cultural promotion follows two goals: On the one hand, the somewhat rather traditional image of Austria is complemented with a keenly contemporary element. On the other hand, public awareness of Austria’s cultural presence as part of the EU is increased. Guatemala has an Austrian school where Austrian educators teach according to the Austrian curriculum. Another Austrian school was inaugurated in Querétaro (Mexico) in August 2011.

About thirty-thousand Austrian expatriates and the large group of former Austrian citizens that live in Latin America play an important part in the range of Austria’s relations with Latin America.

Austria has got diplomatic relations with all states in Latin America and the Caribbean. Austrian Embassies in the region are located in Brasilia, Buenos Aires, Caracas, Havana, Lima, Mexico and Santiago de Chile.

EU cooperation with Latin America and the Caribbean (EU-LAC)

The strategic cooperation between the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean, the so called EU-LAC process, contributes immensely to the deepening of relations between the two regions. Austria has greatly supported this institutionalized partnership since its beginning in 1999. The fourth EU-LAC summit was held in Vienna in 2006.

Since its foundation in December 2011, CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) acts as the partner in this bi-regional process. Summit meetings at the heads of state or government level are held every two years. The first summit since the establishment of the new regional organisation CELAC took place on the 26th/27th of January, 2013 in Santiago de Chile. It was organized by Chile in her function as CELAC chair. The summit focused on the topics of “investment for sustainable development” and “promotion of growth and stability”. A political statement concerning bi-regional cooperation was adopted as well as two new action plan chapters (Investment and Women’s rights). The results of the summit are much welcomed by Austria: Future bi-regional cooperation between the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean will inter alia focus on energy and the environment as well as women’s rights issues (equality; protection from abuse). The next summit is scheduled for 2015 in Brussels.

The EU-LAC foundation has successfully begun operations since its founding in 2011. The foundation’s purpose is to enhance institutional cooperation between the EU and the Latin American and Caribbean region. In particular, the foundation should act as a permanent contact point between EU-CELAC summits. The plan is to transform the EU-LAC foundation into an international organization based on an international agreement. The heads of state called for a swift conclusion of negotiations at the EU-CELAC summit in January 2013.

The EU maintains the concept of a sub-regional approach based on association agreements and economic partnership agreements in order to foster regional integration of the LAC partners and to enhance the legal framework for trade relations and investments. The EU thus tries to enhance the important issues of stability, welfare and social cohesion in Latin America and the Caribbean as well as the fight against drugs and organized crime. The EU maintains a close network of contractual relations with the LAC region: Association agreements with Mexico (2000) and Chile (2002) as well as strategic partnerships and action plans with Brazil (2007) and Mexico (2008). A free trade agreement between the EU and Columbia and Peru as well as association agreements with six Central American nations (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama) were signed in 2012.