RELATIONS WITH THE EU
The European Union and Uruguay
Relations between the European Union (EU) and Uruguay have intensified since the Framework Cooperation Agreement was signed in 1992, improving political and economic dialogue, and at a regional level since the conclusion of EU-Mercosur Association Agreement negotiations in 2019. This last Agreement constitutes a clear commitment on the part of both blocs to rules-based international trade and will give firms and consumers from both sides a significant advantage at international level.
The EU and Uruguay signed a Framework Cooperation Agreement in 1992 to promote bilateral relations with the aim of increasing cooperation with regard to trade, finance and technology, among other things. The agreement implies regular meetings through Joint or Mixed Committees for the purposes of sharing information and discussing topics of interest. The most recent meeting of the Joint Committee took place in Montevideo on 16 November 2021.
Following the 1992 agreement, bilateral relations have expanded, and fostering relations with the EU has become a priority of Uruguay's foreign policy.
Bilateral relations acquired a new dimension with the EU's support for the Mercosur regional integration process and with the conclusion of EU-Mercosur negotiations towards an association agreement in 2019, which - in addition to the trade objectives - aims to intensify political and cooperation relations between the two blocs.
Economic and Trade Relations
Trade relations between the EU and Uruguay are part of the Cooperation Framework Agreement and are a pillar of the strategic European Union - Mercosur Association Agreement, whose negotiations concluded in 2019, but which is still awaiting signature and ratification.
The EU is a key trading partner for the country, ranking third behind China and Brazil. The bilateral exchange of goods exceeds € 3.37 billion (2021), with a trade surplus of € 474 million for the EU. Exports of goods from the EU to Uruguay are mainly machinery (34%) and chemicals (28%); and imports are mainly pulp of wood, paper and paperboard (46%) and live animals and animal products (21%). EU exports of services to Uruguay accounted for € 0.9 billion and imports for € 0.5 billion in 2020.
The EU has established itself in recent years as the leading investor in Uruguay, with about 40% of FDI and an investment stock of approximately € 28 billion (2020). Companies such as Bader, Bayer, Banco Santander, BBVA, Enel, Katoen Natie, Montes del Plata, MoviStar, Sofitel and UPM, among others, are active players in the Uruguayan economy and a proof of the great potential for European investment in the country.
Links of interest:
Technical and financial cooperation
Until 2013, the EU's cooperation with Uruguay focused on three priority areas: social and territorial cohesion, technological innovation, research and development, and justice.
The rapid growth of the Uruguayan economy (which grew by 5.2 % per year on average between 2004 and 2014) and significant improvements in social indicators have set Uruguay apart from its Latin American neighbours as an egalitarian society with a high per-capita income, a low level of inequality and an almost complete absence of indigence. In relative terms, it has the largest middle class in Latin America.
As a result of these advances, in 2013 Uruguay began to be considered a high-income country, meaning that, as of 2014, it was no longer eligible for bilateral cooperation with the EU. However, Uruguay is still able to take part in other cooperation programmes, such as regional programmes for Latin America, thematic programmes (for civil society organisations or the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights) and other EU programmes open to third countries, such as Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+.
The EU has a strategic plan for humanitarian aid for Uruguay through the disaster preparedness programme (DIPECHO).
Through its humanitarian aid, the European Commission not only provides assistance in emergencies, but also seeks to ensure that advance preparation is in place for the risk of natural disasters.
The range of projects includes training, awareness-raising, risk mapping, emergency plans, early-warning systems and mitigation projects.
Human rights, democracy, rule of law
Uruguay is an established and effective democracy. It enjoys considerable political and economic stability, with a robust rule of law. It is considered one of the most transparent and least corrupt countries of the world. The overall human rights situation in Uruguay remains positive and stable, with fundamental freedoms and human rights respected overall.
EU action focuses on the following key areas:
- Eradicating all forms of violence and discrimination against women.
- Promoting gender equality and cultivating an overall environment of non-discrimination, with special attention to the LGBTIQ community, persons with disabilities, elderly and Afro-descendants.
To this effect, the EU Delegation in Uruguay engages proactively with the Uruguayan civil society, in particular through the annual structured dialogue, and carried out several major public events.
In 2018, the EU Delegation launched an EU Human Rights Award to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Award has been granted annually since then. It provides well-deserved visibility to the Uruguayan civil society and is an occasion to strengthen relations between the EU and key Uruguayan human rights institutions and civil society organisations.