Costa Rica

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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, combating climate change, combating terrorism and corruption, and human rights. Political dialogue between France and Costa Rica currently focuses on two key elements: defending multilateralism and fighting the effects of climate change.

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

  • Meeting on 6 October 2014 in Paris between the Minister of Foreign Relations and Religion, Mr Manuel González Sanz, and French Foreign Minister, Mr Laurent Fabius.
  • Participation of President Luis Guillermo 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, 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 November 2015 in Paris between the Minister of Education, Ms Sonia Mora Escalantes, and French Education Minister, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem.
  • Visit to Costa Rica between 11 and 13 January 2017 the Personal Envoy of the French President for Latin America and the Caribbean, Mr Jean-Pierre Bel, during which he met with President Solis.
  • Visit to Paris by President Carlos Alvarado for the Paris Peace Forum in November 2018.
  • Visit to San Jose by the President of the Sud-Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, Mr Renaud Muselier, in February 2019.

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

Economic relations

Costa Rica is the leading trade partner for France and the European Union in Central America. France is Costa Rica’s 5th-largest European supplier behind Germany, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands. In October 2017, France exported nearly €49 million in products to Costa Rica (mainly pharmaceutical products and manufacturing equipment) and imported €178 million in products (mainly medical devices and tropical fruit and vegetables).

France’s presence in Costa Rica is fairly small and primarily industrial. However, France’s businesses are well represented: Total (the leading French investor), Schneider Electric (electricity 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. A delegation of businesses from the Movement of the Enterprises of France (MEDEF) visited Costa Rica on 5 and 6 November 2018.

Over 60,000 French tourists visited Costa Rica in 2016 (up 12% in on 2015), making France the third European country of origin for tourists just behind Spain and Germany. This trend has increased with Air France offering direct flights between Paris and San Jose since November 2016, initially during the tourist season (November-April), and now throughout the year (decision made by Air France in July 2017).

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

Costa Rica hosts the Institut Français of Central America (IFAC), providing a base for French cooperation in the region. Costa Rica is the only Latin American country where learning French is compulsory in the public school 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 (2,547 students) and the Franco-Costa Rican Lycée (911 pupils).

Our scientific cooperation is based mainly on the Jacques-Yves Cousteau Observatory of Coasts and Seas (created in 2011) and the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD). A partnership between Institut Pasteur and the University of Costa Rica’s Tropical Disease Research Centre (CIET) is currently being studied. A French archaeological unit was also created in 2018.

There are currently around twenty university partnerships. France’s 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 (nine projects developed since 2002, and one ongoing project).

New cooperation opportunities have opened up since the National University of Costa Rica became a member of the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF). The Costa Rican Institute of Technology (TEC) recently became the first Latin American institute to be accredited by the French High Council for the Evaluation of Research and Higher Education (HCERES).

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 fourth most popular host country, after the United States, Spain and Germany for Costa Rican students. The number of Costa Rican students enrolled in French higher education institutions has marginally increased over the last few years: 190 Costa Rican students in 2016-2017 (vs 160 in 2015-2016), of which 40% are Bachelor’s students, 30% at Master’s levels and 30% at PhD levels.

The Sud-Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region has also fostered exchanges with Costa Rica for the development of an environmental protection cooperation programme. On 21 February 2019, the Minister of Foreign Relations and Religion of Costa Rica, Mr Manuel Ventura Robles, and the Regional President, Mr Renaud Muselier, signed a statement of intent to this effect.

Updated: 27 February 2019