France and Costa Rica have traditionally enjoyed good relations, thanks to our converging views on many multilateral issues, including environmental protection, combating climate change, combating terrorism and corruption, and human rights. Our political dialogue is currently focused on two crucial areas: human rights and combating climate change.
Our relations have strengthened since 2013, with trips made by senior civil servants and high-level bilateral meetings:
- Meeting on 6October2014 in Paris between the Minister of Foreign Relations and Religion, MrManuel González Sanz, and MrLaurent 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 5June2015 in Paris. On the same day, President Solis was also received by the President of the French Republic for a bilateral meeting, which concluded with the signing of three statements of intent in the fields of tourism, French language teaching, and training and innovation cooperation.
- Meeting on 4 November2015 in Paris between the Minister of Education, MsSonia Mora Escalantes, and MinisterNajat Vallaud-Belkacem. Bilateral consultations between the French and Costa Rican Ministries of Foreign Affairs were held on 8April2016.
Trade between France and Costa Rica rose to €283million in 2015 (€266million in 2014). In2015, France’s trade deficit with Costa Rica grew to -€175million (+31%), due to the rise in our imports (+23% to €229million), in spite of the growth in our exports (+27% to €54million). We are Costa Rica’s fifth-largest European supplier (8% of purchases from Europe, after Germany, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands).
France’s presence there 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.
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 a particularly active Alliance Française branch (2,500students) and the Franco-Costa Rican Lycée (900pupils).
Academic cooperation, which is a highlight of our relations with Costa Rica, led to the opening of the Jacques-Yves Cousteau Observatory for seas and coastal areas in Central America (OCAC) in 2011 and the creation, the same year, of the UNESCO-Cousteau Chair at the University of Costa Rica.
There are currently around twenty university partnerships. Based at the University of Costa Rica, the Central America unit of the French academic network Institut des Amériques helps to develop academic exchanges through conferences and reciprocal hosting of guest professors. Academic cooperation with Costa Rica 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 with Costa Rican universities). The 3rd PREFALC seminar was held in San José in November2015, in partnership with IFAC. Since the National University of Costa Rica became the first Central American member of 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 between conferences of French establishments (CPU, CDEFI) and Costa Rican ones (CONARE) was concluded on 10November2015 during the visit to Paris of the Costa Rican Minister of State Education and the Chair of CONARE. Other cooperation opportunities are being considered in the field of higher education evaluation and quality assurance.
In comparative terms, France is the fifth most popular host country, after the United States, Spain, Cuba and Germany (source: UNESCO 2013). The number of Costa Rican students at French higher education establishments has risen slightly in recent years: in 2014-2015, France hosted 130Costa Rican students (compared with 122 in 2013-2014), of whom 40% were Masters students and 38% were doctoral students. French higher education opportunities are promoted by the Campus France regional office in San José.