Latin America and the Caribbean
The bi-regional cooperation established between the European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean, the EU-LAC process, serves as the framework for intensifying and harmonising the cooperation between the two regions. Austria strongly supports this strategic EU-LAC partnership. The sixth EU-LAC summit took place in Madrid on May 18, 2010. The next EU-LAC summit meeting will take place in Santiago de Chile. The establishment of the EU-LAC foundation in November 2011 in Hamburg has been a decisive step in further intensifying bi-regional relations.
Bilateral relations between Austria and Latin America and the Caribbean have intensified profoundly since the IV. EU-LAC summit held in Vienna in 2006 during the Austrian EU-presidency. Increased exchanges of visits from both sides as well as the signing of various bilateral treaties and the positive development of economic relations are expressions of this dynamic relationship. Austria holds political consultations on a regular basis with five Latin American countries (Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Cuba).
In May 2010 Minister Spindelegger took part in the 200-year celebrations of Argentina in Buenos Aires and then went to Brazil, accompanied by an Austrian business delegation. In recent years, meetings at a political level were organised with representatives of all 33 countries of the LAC region, taking place either in the region itself, Vienna, Brussels or in the margin of the UN General Assembly in New York. Moreover, Austria has recently increased its engagement and cooperation with the Caribbean countries. Institutional relations have been established with CARICOM, the regional Caribbean organisation and the OECS, the Organization for Eastern Caribbean States.
Latin America and the Caribbean were also affected by the global economic and financial crisis. Yet, Latin America and the Caribbean have shown a remarkable amount of resilience and according to the United Nations and the OECD the outlook in the LAC region is very good.
For the economic and social development of Latin America, the expansion of economic relations, both in the framework of free trade or association agreements and bilaterally, is of special importance. Until now, the EU has signed such treaties with Mexico in 2000 and with Chile in 2001. In July 2008 an economic partnership agreement was signed between the EU and the Caribbean region. At the sixth EU-LAC summit in May 2010 in Madrid the association agreement negotiations between the EU and Central America and a free trade agreement with Peru and Colombia were finalized. Also the negotiations between the EU and MERCOSUR were resumed.
Regarding Austria’s economic relations to the region, Latin America and the Caribbean are important export markets for many Austrian companies, especially in the sectors of machinery and equipment, but increasingly also high-tech products, as well as consumer goods and environmental technologies.
Austrian Development Cooperation
Since 2009, Austria’s development cooperation policy with Central America is outlined in a regional strategy. The main challenges in Central America consist in the elimination of the economic imbalances existing both between and within the countries of the region. Austria concentrates its efforts on strengthening marginalised groups, which have been deprived of the benefits of the integration process, by improving the general conditions for small businesses and farmers in accessing regional markets and resources and strengthening the position of civil society. In order to achieve these objectives, Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) works closely with regional organizations and civil society institutions. In 2007, Austria joined the partnership for energy and environment (EEP) and, thus, promotes renewable energy programmes in the region. In NicaraguaAustria focused on rural development and small-scale business promotion.
Since 2007, ADC expanded its activities to the Caribbean where priority is laid upon strengthening capacities of the regional institution CARICOM. ADC also reacts to immediate challenges of the region by concentrating on disaster management, energy, climate and environment.
The aim of the Austrian cultural cooperation is to enrich the existing more traditional view by promoting a contemporary focus on Austrian culture. In addition, Austria presents itself as part of the European Union to the Latin American public. In Guatemala an Austrian school exists, where Austrian teachers teach according to the Austrian curriculum. Another Austrian school in Querétaro, Mexico, has been opened in August 2011.
Austrian expatriates in Latin America and the Caribbean
Relations with Latin America and the Caribbean also encompass the Austrian expatriate community which amounts to 30.000 and the many former Austrians that live in the region. Various renowned expatriate settlements exist to date in Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Columbia, Mexico, and Paraguay.
Missions of the Republic of Austria to Latin America and the Caribbean
Austria maintains diplomatic relations with all states in Latin America and the Caribbean. Austrian Embassies exist in Bogotá, Brasilia, Buenos Aires, Caracas, Havana, Lima, Mexico-City, Ottawa, Santiago de Chile and Washington.