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: human rights and fighting 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 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 the 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 Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem.
  • Visit to Costa Rica on 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.

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 totalled €262 million (€283 million in 2015) with a trade deficit for France of €141 million. France is Costa Rica’s 5th-largest European supplier behind Germany, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands.

France’s presence there 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.

Over 55,000 French tourists visited Costa Rica in 2015 (up 40% in 4 years), making France the third European country of origin for tourists behind Spain and Germany. This trend will increase with Air France offering direct flights from Paris-San José since November 2016, firstly 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. 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, together with a UNESCO-Cousteau Chair at the University of Costa Rica in the same year.

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 (8 projects developed since 2002).

New cooperation opportunities have opened up since the National University of Costa Rica became a member of the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF).

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 marginally increased over the last few years: 158 Costa Rican students in 2015-2016 (vs 130 in 2014-2015), of which one third are Bachelor’s students, one third at Master’s levels and one third at Doctoral levels.

For more information, visit the website of the Institut Français - Central America

Updated: 07.09.17