High Representative/Vice President Josep Borrell has concluded his visit Panama, which took place during 1-3 May.
In addition to boosting bilateral relations with this like-minded and increasingly active diplomatic and economic partner, the visit had a strong regional focus. The HRVP attended special joint meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Central American Integration System (SICA) andthe Caribbean Community (CARICOM), attended by 16 countries of which 14 were represented at ministerial level. It was the first time that the EU was invited to join a meeting of the two organisations.
HRVP Borrell conveyed the EU’s appreciation for the clear support extended by the vast majority of countries in Central America and the Caribbean for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and their clear condemnation of Russian aggression. This was reaffirmed during the discussions in Panama. The HRVP underlined the importance of continuing to defend the rules-based international order and multilateralism, and highlighting the impact that Europe, Central America and the Caribbean can have collectively when they work together.
During the bilateral leg of the visit, the HRVP met with President Cortizo and with Foreign Minister Mouynes. Both the President and the Foreign Minister strongly reiterated Panama’s condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Discussions also covered bilateral issues, including the progress in finalising arrangements for Panama to host the regional data centre for the EU’s Copernicus earth observation programme. Once established, this centre will support Latin American and Caribbean countries in environmental management and in dealing with risks linked to climate change and natural disasters. The meeting with Foreign Minister Mouynes also dealt with regional issues.
Throughout the visit, HRVP Borrell emphasised the economic opportunities arising in Central America and the Caribbean from the EU Global Gateway initiative. He paid a visit to the Panama Canal, in particular the site of its expansion which was co-financed with a contribution of $500 million from the European Investment Bank and carried out with the participation of European companies. Since opening in 2016, the expansion has directly resulted in the abatement of 40 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. The HRVP also met European business to discuss the economic opportunities offered by Panama and the region, and inaugurated the new offices of the EU Delegation in Panama.
As for the regional dimension, at his joint meeting with SICA and CARICOM HRVP Borrell expressed support for the efforts of the two sub-regions to work more closely together and underlined his strong commitment to further developing the EU’s relations with Latin America and the Caribbean more broadly. He recalled that the last summit of EU leaders with the region as a whole took place back in 2015.
The meeting also addressed economic challenges, such as the recovery from the pandemic and impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; political challenges related to democracy and governance; and structural challenges related to climate change, citizen security, organised crime and migration. The exchanges were sincere, open and forward-looking.
The HRVP also held separate meetings with SICA and CARICOM to discuss the EU’s cooperation with each sub-region.
The HRVP offered to hold regular annual meetings with Caribbean Foreign Ministers to consolidate the joint high-level engagement and to operationalise the political cooperation foreseen under the Caribbean Protocol of the “post-Cotonou” agreement. This proposal was accepted by his counterparts, who took the opportunity of the meeting to underline the particular challenges and vulnerabilities faced by the Caribbean. Discussions also covered cooperation, trade, climate change, and the international financial architecture, among other topics.
The HRVP also held bilateral meetings with Belize (as CARICOM chair), Trinidad and Tobago (as CARIFORUM chair), Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala and Costa Rica.
He also met jointly with the Foreign Ministers of the Alliance for Development in Democracy, comprising Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Panama.