NEIGHBORLY RELATIONS

Costa Rica 2018 | DIPLOMACY | GUEST SPEAKER

TBY talks to Luis Miguel Hincapié, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Panama, on the benefits of the bilateral FTA, boosting tourism in both countries, and moving toward a process of integration.

Luis Miguel Hincapié

What efforts does the Panamanian government make bilaterally with its counterpart in Costa Rica to strengthen tourism in both countries?

On May 5, 2017, the first meeting of the Costa Rica-Panama Association Council was held in San José, which discussed issues that facilitate tourism in both countries, including migration, security, border issues, health, education, connectivity, business issues, and economic affairs. In December 2016, the tourism authorities from both countries met to establish guidelines on the development of tourism in the border area. Another issue to be highlighted is the initiative for a Border Integration Program (PIF), which aims to strengthen the competitiveness of Panama's foreign trade through the modernization of infrastructure, equipment, and border systems in the three border crossings with Costa Rica—Paso Canoas, Guabito, and Río Sereno—seeking to ensure efficient and effective coordination of controls. This initiative ensures better conditions for tourist movement between both countries.

How has security on the border between Costa Rica and Panama evolved, and what efforts remain to be made?

We held periodic meetings in the border area of Paso Canoas before registering massive irregular flows in the last year. In this sense, our security forces have reinforced their presence in the border area in order to prevent criminal activity in the area, which already produces great results. In Río Sereno, we are establishing a permanent position in joint work with Costa Rica. The joint task force of the security forces coordinated with Costa Rica the transfer of more than 4,000 Cuban migrants who were in the border area to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Efforts still need to be made to adapt the infrastructure to avoid permeability in the area where people transit through the border sector.

How do you see the evolution of Panama's relations with the Central American region, in particular Costa Rica?

Bilateral relations between Panama and Costa Rica are at the highest level, which allows us to expand and strengthen existing links. Costa Rica and Panama are moving toward a process of integration. It is increasingly common to be on the bilateral agenda with inter-institutional meetings to analyze the progress made in customs, migration, medical emergencies, education, health, and the delimitation and densification of border landmarks. At the political level, the foreign ministers of both countries chaired the first meeting of the Panama-Costa Rica Association Council. There is a close link between the political, commercial, and social agendas. Additionally, Costa Rica and Panama coordinated the plans and programs to be developed within the framework of the Pro Tempore Presidency of Central American Integration System (SICA) and jointly address security, migration, and cooperation issues. Our relationship is aimed at protecting the peace, security, and harmony between brotherly peoples who live in the region and seek to guarantee the rights of their inhabitants, respecting international norms.