Since 1999, the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean have shared a strategic partnership, cooperating closely and maintaining an intensive political dialogue. Trade between the EU and the CELAC region has been growing rapidly and the EU remains the leading foreign investor in CELAC countries. The EU has concluded Free Trade Agreements with two LAC groups (CARIFORUM and Central America) and with four other Latin American countries (Mexico, Chile, Peru and Colombia).

The EU remains the most important provider of Official Development Assistance (ODA) in Latin America and the Caribbean, with €3.4 billion dedicated to the region for the period 2014-2020 and Latin American and Caribbean countries also receive support under thematic programmes.

During the last decade, the European Union's policy has increasingly shifted towards a partnership approach. An EU-CELAC Summit is held every two years, and they are the main fora for dialogue and cooperation. The last two (2013 Santiago and 2015 Brussels), included provision for identifying priority areas for bi-regional cooperation. As a result, a number of territorial cooperation initiatives between the EU and Latin America have been carried out through different general actions in the framework of regional policy.

Among others, some of the territorial cooperation actions are:

  • Programme for Social Cohesion in Latin America EuroSocial 

  • Cooperation on cross-border cooperation (EULAC-CBC)

  • Cooperation on regional innovation systems (EULAC-RIS)

  • Urban European and Latin American and Caribbean cities (URBELAC)

  • Cooperation on cross-border regional innovation systems (EULAC-REGIO, CBRIS)

  • EU-SICA cooperation on regional policy and border integration (CBRIS)

The implementation of these actions has taken place by means of a flexible approach, which combines different, complementary and mutually reinforcing levels of dialogues and initiatives: regional, sub-regional, multi-country and bilateral.

Many individual projects, supported by DG REGIO, have set the scene and created important examples of knowledge transfer processes from Europe to Latin America. Bilateral and sub-regional Policy Dialogues between the European Union and Latin American countries have included the exchange of information and good practices on, among other topics, strategies and policies aiming at economic, social and territorial cohesion, cross-border cooperation, innovation and technological development, clusters and business competitiveness, capacity building at regional and local level, multi-level governance and partnership issue, and planning and evaluation procedures and methods.

By way of examples, it is worth mentioning the performance, under the EU-Chile Policy Dialogue, of activities such as training courses, technical assistance and study visits in the framework of “Regional Innovation Strategies”. In 2012, The EU-Peru cooperation programme promoted workshops on "regional development and border integration" and in 2015 The dialogue between EU and SICA (Central American Integration System) on regional policy and border integration funded a study that developed a SWOT analyses in three selected cross-border areas in Central America.

Multi-country initiatives under the project “EU-Latin America Cooperation on Cross-Border Regional Innovation Systems in the framework of Regional Policy” include the promotion of cooperation between authorities in the border regions of Peru and Brazil, Brazil and Uruguay, Chile and Peru, Argentina-Paraguay-Brazil, and Andean Community Countries.

In 2015, an EU-LATAM cooperation project identified and created a database on EU-LAC bi-regional value chains, generating knowledge for potential long-term partnerships where the EU experience could be both used and recycled.

INNOVACT aims to identify and develop cross-border value chains, creating sustainable EU-LATAM partnerships not only between political institutions or national and regional authorities but, in particular, between agencies and players – public and private – who work on a day-to-day basis with the promotion of SME innovation, clusters and business competitiveness.