Costa Rica: Reinforcing EU links with the national government

Quote Amb. Castro

Mr. Pelayo Castro Zuzuarregui is the resident Ambassador and Head of EU Delegation to Costa Rica since September 2015, the first after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. During 2017, he followed the MIEUX Action21 assisting the Government of Costa Rica in drafting the second phase of the National Integration Plan, closely supporting all stages of the intervention as well as the ongoing dialogue with the Costa Rican authorities. This interview was first published in MIEUX's Annual Report 2017. 

MIEUX: In general, how has MIEUX contributed or can contribute to furthering the mission of the EU Delegation in Costa Rica?

In order to evaluate MIEUX’s importance, I’d like to first take a step back and look at the wider picture. It’s necessary for the EU to abandon, as the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Ms. Federica Mogherini has emphasised, the "crisis mode" in migration management, which leads us to makeshift solutions, short-term thinking, and acting on the basis of urgency and exceptions. This approach is not sustainable in a world of seven billion people with enormous demographic imbalances and inequality, increasingly exacerbated by climate change.

It should be the task of the EU to build a new and responsible system of human mobility based on cooperation, both inside and outside of its borders. From this initial idea stems the importance of having a facility like MIEUX, a programme which I consider to be firmly inserted into the EU’s global strategy. Concretely, MIEUX supports us in four of the fundamental values that we try to take forward in this delegation.

First, thanks to the project we have been able to work [with the Costa Rican Government] in an associative and collaborative manner, one of the defining traits of European identity. Second, because MIEUX increases social resilience, both inside of Europe and of our partners, to be able to manage changes in a more efficient manner, including those linked to migration. Third, because the EU and this Delegation want to have an integrated approach in all of our areas of work, as mandated by the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, of which migration is a key element. Last, because MIEUX promotes and supports regional agendas such as EU-CELAC as well as the UN GCM, an overall framework which we carry out in a more concrete manner in Costa Rica between the delegation, MIEUX and the Costa Rican counterpart.

Above all, MIEUX supports us through its expertise: with capacity, knowledge and technical assistance, allowing the EUDEL to engage in dialogue and carry out projects together with the Government of Costa Rica. We had already carried out some projects in the field of migration through the Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights by working with migrant women in the border region. Thanks to MIEUX we have been able to complement these interventions and respond to specific needs as stated by the partner country.

MIEUX: The government of Costa Rica has entrusted MIEUX with supporting the formulation of the first and second National Integration Plans. Could you explain how this type of cooperation fits with the priority objectives of EU-LAC cooperation on migration?

Both MIEUX Actions in support of the "National Integration Plan of Costa Rica (NIP)" (2013-2017 and 2018-2022, respectively) are well framed within the strategic objectives of the EU-CELAC Plan of Action24 and in general within the strategic objectives of the EU in regards to migration as a cross-cutting issue in all areas of international cooperation. We can see how through three examples: the first being that one of the activities included in MIEUX’s latest Action was to task the Fundación GESO with the drafting of the "Analysis of the Costa Rican migration context", the first of its kind.

To acquire more knowledge of migration flows and their related challenges for both regions is in line with one of the objectives stated in the EU-CELAC Plan of Action. Second, the Plan indicates the need to maximise the positive impact of development within migration and mobility, and the NIP is one of the ways to achieve that objective, as well as an example of how to go beyond crisis mode in migration management. Third, at regional level both the EU and Costa Rica are committed to developing migration policies through a human-rights-based approach.

The General Directorate of Migration has acknowledged migration as a human right and as one of the social elements of opportunities for the development of the country. The NIP is one of the ways to respond to that approach, making it of paramount importance that the EUD has been able to participate in that endeavour.

MIEUX: The EU Delegation recently organised an event in Costa Rica between academia and government officials to discuss the future of bilateral EU-LAC relations. Was migration among the topics discussed and, if so, could you share some insights?

In collaboration with our partners both in Europe and LAC, we have been preparing the future Communication which will guide our bi-regional relations. Migration featured in this discussion, mainly in two avenues. Firstly, the paramount importance of keeping a human-rights-based approach to migration in two ways: the first one, where the EU acts as an example to the rest of the world when it comes to tackling challenges related to migration and the second one, the importance that this approach has for cooperation between EU and CELAC. Secondly, all actors must keep in mind that tailor-made approaches to each country are needed, according to their needs and contexts. Costa Rica’s migration profile is in fact very different from that of other Latin American countries and is actually the country with the highest percentage of migrant population in the region.

MIEUX: Nowadays, the list of actors involved in migration and cooperation has grown exponentially. What is the role of technical assistance programmes or facilities such as MIEUX in this new multi-actor environment?

These interventions have brought us knowledge, example and European working practices, allowing us to see what kind of added value we can include when formulating a public policy in Costa Rica. It’s not about imposing our models or about "giving lessons", but about sharing experiences so that we may learn jointly how to develop our cooperation and deliver better public policies. This Action [in 2017] involved many stakeholders, from the General Directorate of Migration to all those involved with the Social Migration Fund and others. It’s noteworthy to mention the prominent role given to civil society in researching and drafting the "Analysis of the Costa Rican migration context".

To sum up, this Action represented a remarkable opportunity to delve into our understanding of the current national migration context and to strengthen our ties with our partners in Costa Rica. Technical assistance interventions allow us to go beyond working at an operative level to reach government officials and other partners. Personally, I feel that it was of paramount importance that through this Action, we were able to build a structured dialogue with the government body which followed the implementation of the NIP, the National Council for Migration, which made us feel welcome and gave us prompt access. This is where the importance of technical cooperation comes to light: the process is as just as important as the final output.

MIEUX: The EU and Costa Rica (compared with other countries in the region) have a lot of experience in the integration of migrants and refugees. What can the EU learn from Costa Rica in this regard and vice-versa?

There are opportunities for mutual learning. One of the strong points of Costa Rica would be the existence of the Social Migratory Fund, established by law and receiving resources from a stable source in the form of a payment established in an article of the national migration law so that there is a permanent budget line. It is important because the country’s institutions assume and understand that they must have these funds. And on the other hand, [the organisation of a study visit to Spain] was very useful so that Costa Ricans could become aware of the role that the different levels of public administration and local actors can play through the case study of Barcelona, a large city with a municipal management perfectly aligned in its efforts with the Spanish national integration policy. I feel this was significant because in Costa Rica the regional and municipal institutional presence is weaker, but it is at the municipal level where the challenges of migration are felt the most.