as a partner for the security and stability of Europe, its neighbourhood, and other regions of the world
01 — The key questions for the Partner-Atlas
RELEVANCE: How relevant is Colombia to Germany in terms of ensuring security and stability in Europe, neighbouring countries and other regions of the world?
In the context of the competition between political systems involving Russia, China and the western democracies, Colombia is of significant strategic importance to Germany and to Europe as a whole, both as a partner in values and as a regional anchor of stability. In terms of population size, economic power, geographical size and wealth of resources, it is one of the most important countries in Latin America. As an OECD member and NATO’s only “global partner” in Latin America, Colombia is firmly on the side of the democracies advocating for increased multilateralism and a rules-based liberal world order. Specifically in the context of the crisis in Venezuela, Colombia provides an important democratic antithesis to the authoritarian powers supporting the Maduro regime and treating Venezuela as a gateway for the expansion of their own spheres of interest in the region. Given the increasingly geopolitical dimension of the crisis in Venezuela, Colombia has an important part to play as a partner and a regional anchor of stability. It also pursues a liberal foreign trade policy and has an advanced free trade agreement in place with the EU. Open trading routes and secure seaways are therefore a high priority on the country’s foreign and security policy agenda. Since Colombia has both Atlantic and Pacific coasts – its territorial waters represent about 45 percent of its territory – the situation in the country is of geopolitical significance, especially as the great majority of maritime transport routes and goods transportation passes through Colombia’s Caribbean waters to the Panama Canal. On account of its lengthy history of internal conflict, Colombia also has important military resources and experience, which it contributes to its partnership in NATO.
WILLINGNESS: To what extent is Colombia willing to work with Germany in realising this interest?
Colombia and the EU/Germany enjoy a close relationship characterised by mutual trust. In the UN General Assembly, Colombia and the EU signed an agreement in 2021 to further expand their cooperation and political dialogue, including on foreign and security policy. Within the EU, Germany counts as one of Colombia’s most important partners. Decision-makers in Colombia are therefore very prepared to engage in greater cooperation in the political, economic, academic, technological and military areas, especially since Germany enjoys a positive reputation there as a prominent international supporter of the peace process and an important partner in dealing with migration from Venezuela. At a civil society level (NGOs, churches, political foundations, cultural collaboration), too, a close and multifaceted relationship strengthens the foundation of trust underpinning more in-depth cooperation.
STATUS QUO: How close is Germany and Colombia’s current cooperation in this area?
Germany and Colombia already have a close security policy relationship in place, which is reflected in joint armaments projects, officer exchanges, and joint training and professional development programmes, for example. The Colombian navy’s frigates and submarines come from Germany. Technology transfer from Germany plays a key role in the navy’s current armaments projects. In 2021, the Ministries of Defence of Colombia and Germany reached an official agreement to further bolster their traditional defence cooperation activities. The agreement puts in place general conditions for the further expansion of bilateral cooperation in areas such as military training and professional development, peacekeeping deployments as part of the UN, improved interoperability, armaments technology, maritime security, cyber security, logistics, mine clearing and environmental protection. With NATO, too, Colombia agreed on an ambitious partnership programme in late 2021 to bolster the interoperability of the armed forces and take cooperation in areas such as military training, mine clearance and maritime security to a deeper level. Germany, Colombia and the NATO partners also engage in close interaction at an academic level in the areas of security and defence policy. In this context, experts, defence policy-makers and members of the military always emphasise the shared security interests and the extensive common ground in their geopolitical risk analyses.
POTENTIAL: What is the potential for strengthening the partnership between Germany and Colombia in this area?
There is major potential to further intensify security policy cooperation between Germany and Colombia. The partnership programme with NATO agreed upon recently and the German-Colombian agreement at Defence Ministry level serve as a basis and a guide in this regard. The intensification of geopolitical tensions, in the context of the competition between political systems involving the liberal democracies and authoritarian powers, is becoming evident in various parts of the world and provides further grounds for pressing ahead with security policy cooperation with Colombia. In view of its geostrategically important position with access to the Pacific and Atlantic, its military resources and experience and the fact it is firmly anchored in the western community of shared values, Colombia is an important partner to the EU and NATO security and defence community. Because Colombia is confronted to a significant degree by internal challenges in terms of implementing the peace process, mass immigration from Venezuela and – as a consequence of the presence of illegal armed groups fighting for control of the drug trade and other illegal economic activities – instability and high levels of violence in many parts of the country, its public security policy debate is focused primarily on the domestic context. Experts and decision-makers, however, have a strong interest in interaction and cooperation with international partners in order to analyse security policy challenges and develop solutions together.
POLICY RECOMMENDATION: What in German foreign policy has to change in order to fully exploit this potential?
Germany should make use of the viable foundations of security policy cooperation with Colombia – with its naval forces in particular – and the latest general agreement (see under Status quo) in order to develop specific cooperation projects in the areas of armaments, training and professional development, and strategic analysis of new security policy challenges. In the context of security policy consultations and forums on transatlantic security, in particular, Colombia should be more fully included given its status as NATO’s only “global partner” in Latin America. The good relations between leading players in the security and defence sector and the mutual trust built up over a period of years should be further nurtured in greater depth by way of delegations and exchange programmes. Development policy cooperation in areas not directly connected with security and defence policy themes should be linked more strongly with the bilateral security policy dialogue. It would be desirable in this regard to have stronger, country-specific coordination in place between the Foreign Ministry, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Federal Ministry of Defence. The strong role played by Germany in monitoring the Colombian peace process, for example in supporting the work of the transitional justice system and the Truth Commission, should also be drawn on in future to bolster dialogue between these institutions and the Colombian military. Transparent and critical/constructive participation by the military in accounting for the conflict and historical memory would firm up acceptance of the peace agreement and the trust of Colombian society in the armed forces, and thus also promote international dialogue on the role of the armed forces in a democratic and social constitutional state. Integrity, high ethical standards and protection of human rights should remain important cornerstones of dialogue, in order to further bolster the foundation of values underlying security policy cooperation with Colombia, in addition to cooperation at a technical/military level.
Stefan Reith heads the KAS office in Colombia.
02 — Foreign Office
Calle 93b No.18-12, piso 7
110221 Bogotá D.C.
03 — The region
The strategic partnership between the EU and Latin America was established as part of the first European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean (EU-LAC) Summit in June 1999. The principle underlying the strategy and the subsequent association and partnership agreements with individual countries and regions on the South American continent was the assumption that the EU and the countries of Latin America are united by many shared values and interests.
- Population: 19.450.953
- Capital: Santiago de Chile
Brazil is the largest country in South America, the fifth-largest country in the world, and the largest economy in Latin America. It also accounts for more than 60 percent of the Amazon tropical rainforest, the world’s largest, and includes a large proportion of renewables in its energy mix. The country’s geographical location, size, economic significance and the importance of preserving its natural resources in the fight against the global climate crisis all underpin the central role Brazil plays in ensuring and maintaining global climate, energy and food security.
- Population: 212.559.417
- Capital: Brasilia
In the context of the competition between political systems involving Russia, China and the western democracies, Colombia is of significant strategic importance to Germany and to Europe as a whole, both as a partner in values and as a regional anchor of stability. In terms of population size, economic power, geographical size and wealth of resources, it is one of the most important countries in Latin America.
- Population: 50.882.891
- Capital: Bogota
In connection with organised crime, drug trafficking, and the infiltration of the state by criminal groups, Mexico – a regional leader and member of the G20 – is facing major challenges that affect both internal and regional security. In view of the cross-border effects of organised crime in Mexico, which extends far beyond the American continent, migration from Central America and other regions of the world through Mexico towards the USA, the significant economic potential as a manufacturing base offering a well-qualified workforce and privileged access to the US market via the North American Free-Trade Area, Mexico is of great importance for the stability of the region.
- Population: 128.932.753
- Capital: Mexiko-Stadt
Costa Rica generates nearly 100 percent of its electricity consumption from renewable energy sources. The country is also considered a leader in nature conservation. More than 25 percent of Costa Rica’s land is devoted today to nature conservation areas. With its Decarbonisation Plan, adopted in 2018 with an implementation deadline of 2050, the country is setting important standards and leading the way both regionally and internationally. Currently, the Environmental Commission of the Costa Rican Parliament is working on a bill that would officially ban oil and gas exploration and extraction in the country. Against this backdrop, Costa Rica can undoubtedly be considered a major player when it comes to safeguarding significant resources and protecting the climate.
- Population: 5.185.625
- Capital: San José
Peru is an exception in Latin America in terms of its enormous wealth of resources and biodiversity. The country has three large landscape zones: the coast, most of which is covered by desert, the Andes and the jungle region. According to the World Resource Institute, Peru is one of only eight megadiverse countries in the world, possessing 84 of the 104 existing life zones. 76 percent of the country is occupied by rainforest, which means that the country has the largest share of the Amazon rainforest after Brazil.
- Population: 32,971,854
- Capital: Lima
Mexico is the second-largest economy in Latin America, and is a member of the G20, the OECD and the WTO. After the USA and China, the European Union is its third-most important trading partner. Given its geographic proximity to the US and the economic, cultural and social interrelationships between the two countries, especially as part of the successor to NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) which came into force in July 2020 – the Tratado comercial entre México, Estados Unidos y Canadá (T-MEC) – Mexico plays a special part in this economic context.
- Population: 128,932,753
- Capital: Mexico City
According to official data from the Colombian migration authorities, approximately 1.8 million of the more than 4 million Venezuelan migrants are currently in Colombia.Commuters and so-called “transit migrants“ are not included in these statistics, which means that their actual number is probably even higher.
- Population: 50,882,891
- Capital: Bogota
In comparison to other Latin American countries and despite its modest size, Uruguay serves as a model in view of its impressive political and socio-economic achievements . In a region that is not always stable, the country can look back on a long democratic-republican tradition with functioning institutions and a diverse media landscape. According to the latest edition of The Economist‘s Democracy Index, Uruguay is currently the most democratic country in Latin America and is ranked 15th worldwide.
- Population: 3,473,730
- Capital: Montevideo
Brazil is the largest economy in Latin America and, with a GDP of approximately 1,5 trillion US dollars, is one of the most important emerging markets in the world. The country has a domestic market of 214 million inhabitants and is rich in natural resources.
- Population: 212,559,417
- Capital: Brasilia