France and Costa Rica

Political relations

France and Costa Rica have traditionally enjoyed good relations, thanks to our converging views on many multilateral issues including environmental protection, climate change, combating terrorism and corruption, and human rights. Our political dialogue is currently focused on two priorities: human rights and combating climate change.

Our relations have strengthened since 2013, with trips made by senior officials and high-level bilateral meetings:

  • Meeting on 6 October 2014 in Paris between the Costa Rican Minister of Foreign Relations and Religion, Mr Manuel González Sanz, and his French counterpart, Mr Laurent Fabius.
  • Participation of President Solis in the 2015 Latin America and Caribbean Week as a guest of honour at the International Economic Forum on Latin America and the Caribbean on 5 June 2015 in Paris. On the same day, President Solis was also received by President Hollande for a bilateral meeting, concluding with the signing of three declarations of intent in the fields of tourism, French language teaching, and training and innovation cooperation.
  • Meeting on 4 November 2015 in Paris between the Minister of Education, Ms Sonia Mora Escalantes, and Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem.
  • Visit to Costa Rica from 11-13 January 2017 by the Personal Envoy of the President of the French Republic for Latin America and the Caribbean, Mr Jean-Pierre Bel, during which he met with President Solis.

Bilateral consultations between the French and Costa Rican Ministries of Foreign Affairs were held on 8 April 2016.

Economic relations

In 2016, trade between France and Costa Rica stood at €262 million (€283 million in 2015), with France reporting a deficit of €141 million. We are Costa Rica’s fifth-largest European supplier after Germany, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands.

France’s presence is fairly small and primarily industrial. Nevertheless, our companies are well-represented: Total (the largest French investor), Schneider Electric (power distribution, process automation and building controls), Legrand (electrical equipment) and Engie. Costa Rica’s need to diversify its energy sources (to include geothermal and wind energy) and its major development projects (transport infrastructure, introduction of electric vehicles) are a source of opportunities for our businesses.

More than 55,000 French tourists visited Costa Rica in 2015 (+40% over 4 years) and our country is the third-largest European source of visitors after Spain and Germany. This trend is set to grow, with the launch by Air France in November 2016 of a direct Paris-San José flight from November to April, during Costa Rica’s high tourism season.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

Costa Rica hosts the Institut Français of Central America (IFAC), providing a base for French cooperation in the region. It is also the last Latin American country where French remains compulsory in the education system. Our cooperation includes training the thousand or so French teachers working in the primary, secondary and higher education systems. French cultural cooperation is supported by a network made up of an Alliance Française branch (2,500 students) and the Franco-Costa Rican Lycée (900 pupils).

The Jacques-Yves Cousteau Observatory for seas and coastal areas in Central America (OCAC) was created in 2011, the same year as the UNESCO-Cousteau Chair at the University of Costa Rica.

There are currently around twenty university partnerships. Our cooperation is also supported by the France-Latin America and the Caribbean regional programme “PREFALC”, which aims to facilitate the setting up of Masters programmes (8 projects since 2002).

Since the National University of Costa Rica joined the French-speaking academic network Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF), new cooperation opportunities have opened up.

An agreement on mutual recognition of qualifications and periods of higher education study was concluded on 10 November 2015 during the visit to Paris of the Costa Rican Minister of State Education.

In comparative terms, France is the fifth most-popular host country, after the United States, Spain, Cuba and Germany. The number of Costa Rican students enrolled in French higher education institutions has grown slightly in recent years: 158 in 2015-2016 (compared to 130 in 2014-2015), split equally between Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD courses.

Institut Français - Central America

Updated: 3 July 2017