as a partner for strengthening a values and rules-based world order

01 — The key questions for the Partner-Atlas

RELEVANCE: What relevance does Uruguay have for Germany with regards to "strengthening a values and rules-based world order"?

In comparison to other Latin American countries and despite its modest size, Uruguay serves as a model with its impressive political and socio-economic status. 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 Transparency International, Uruguay is the least corrupt country in Latin America, ranking 21st in the global corruption index (out of 168). Uruguay has a relatively broad and wealthy middle class, low poverty rates, and a high level of social cohesion. Also noteworthy are its consensus-oriented political culture, comparatively well-developed health and education systems, and its stable party system. Its professional handling of the coronavirus crisis and the low mortality rate have once again attested to the high level of Uruguay’s health care system.

Montevideo is an important hub for Latin American goods on their way to Europe and is the region’s financial centre. Its economic importance along with Uruguay’s regional role as an intermediary (especially between Brazil and Argentina) are the reasons why Montevideo is the seat of the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) and Latin American Integration Association (ALADI) trade alliances.

The large formal labour sector, the country’s high purchasing power and overall favourable investment opportunities also offer many starting points for German companies.

WILLINGNESS: To what extent is Uruguay willing to work with Germany in realising this interest?

Uruguay has a professional diplomatic service, and has produced well-known international diplomats, of whom Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS), is only the most recent example.

Uruguay is reliant on functional regional and international integration and is very willing to actively work to strengthen a values and rules-based world order. This is evident, for example, in the fact that Uruguay is one of the 15 UN Member States that have been most active in UN peacekeeping missions in the past decade. It is also currently a member of the UN Human Rights Council and has assumed the Mercosur Presidency in the second half of 2020 – parallel with Germany´sPresidency of the Council of the EU.

Even though Uruguay is traditionally used to maintaining close foreign policy relations with various countries around the world, it is to be expected that there will be a slight change in direction in the coming years. After 15 years of a pluralistic left-wing coalition made up of centre-left and left-wing parties, a centre-right government under President Luis Lacalle Pou took over in March of 2020. There is an obvious and clear dissociation from left-wing authoritarian countries in the region, such as Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, and this was expressed in their not being invited to Lacalle’s inauguration. Relations with Western democracies in Europe and America are also expected to increase in priority over relations with China and Russia, for example.

This is where Germany comes into particular focus. Germany is highly regarded in Uruguay for its international role and serves as a role model in many respects. One example is dual education (simultaneous in-class and on-the-job training), another is the sustainability agenda, for which Uruguay can boast many very progressive policy concepts. With regard to implementing the sustainability goals as part of the United Nations 2030 Agenda, Uruguay scores well in comparison with other South American countries (2nd place behind Chile, 43rd place worldwide).

STATUS QUO: How close is Germany and Uruguay's current cooperation in this area?

Germany and Uruguay have shared diplomatic relations for more than 160 years. There were particularly large waves of German immigration during the Gründerzeit (Promoterism period). Institutions such as the German School enjoy a high reputation in the country; the German-Uruguayan Chamber of Industry and Commerce was intensively involved in the development of a dual education system based on the German model. German expertise also plays an important role in the field of renewable energies, a fact that underlines Uruguay’s affinity for climate- and sustainability-friendly policies.

For its part, Germany supported the country’s transition process from dictatorship (1973 to 1985) to democracy in the form of parliamentary delegations. The Latin America-Caribbean Initiative of the Federal Foreign Office of 2019 and the EU-Mercosur Agreement, the ratification of which Uruguay strongly supports, are presently providing momentum for bilateral relations.

POTENTIAL: What is the potential for strengthening the partnership between Germany and Uruguay in this area?

Due to the relevance, as described above, and experiences to date that have shaped the relations between Germany and Uruguay, Uruguay is an ideal ally for strengthening multilateralism. The country also represents an opportunity to promote the regional integration of Latin America and to move the continent closer to Europe.

The new government’s sympathy for the Lima Group, a multilateral alliance of 14 American states for the restoration of democracy in Venezuela, and its rapprochement with the Pacific Alliance also suggest that Uruguay will work harder than before for free trade, human rights and the strengthening of the multilateral system.

Furthermore, there is potential for cooperation in the area of international crime prevention. In recent years, Uruguay has been discovered by Latin American drug cartels as a transit country and export route to Europe. An exchange of experiences between customs authorities, along with a technology transfer and intelligence training could be considered in order to prevent Uruguay from increasingly becoming a hub for the globally networked drug trade.

POLICY RECOMMENDATION: What in German foreign policy has to change in order to fully exploit this potential?

In particular, during its current presidency of the EU Council, Germany should use the Uruguayan presidency of Mercosur to drive ahead with ratification of the EU-Mercosur agreement. This is not only of geoeconomic interest for Europe; it is also a decisive driver in the economic integration of South America.

Germany should also provide Uruguay with more backing to strengthen Mercosur and bring the Alliance closer to the Pacific Alliance. It is important to give Uruguay more recognition as a political ally, rather than just seeing it as a pleasant holiday destination and as Argentina’s “little brother”. An increase in visits from high-ranking German representatives would underline Germany’s appreciation for Uruguay.

China has massively expanded its influence in Latin America in recent years, including in Uruguay. China is the largest buyer of Uruguayan products after Brazil and is investing in strategic infrastructure projects, for example, the port of Montevideo. At the same time, the role of China and the risk of one-sided dependency are subject to too little critical examination on the continent. Germany should address this and advocate a more self-confident and independent position of the EU in the region.

Specific infrastructure and cooperation projects in the areas of dual education, sustainability, digitisation and logistics could make a contribution here. Initiatives by the German-Uruguayan Chamber of Commerce should be supported, with the aim of attracting German investors to the country and making full use of the country’s economic potential. Taking advantage of this is particularly important given the recent weakening of the economy and rising unemployment. The continued economic vitality and political stability of Uruguay is of great importance to Germany, also and especially in the context of strengthening a values and rules-based world order.

It is also worthwhile giving more international recognition to Uruguay’s successful handling of the coronavirus crisis. The government has constantly appealed to the “responsible use of citizens’ civil liberties” while pursuing precautionary measures. The population’s considerable willingness to cooperate has made overly strict bans unnecessary. The maturity evident in Uruguayan society is exemplary in many ways.

Sebastian Grundberger heads the KAS Office in Uruguay; Thomas Schaumberg is Trainee at the KAS Office in Uruguay.


  • Population: 3,473,730
  • Capital: Montevideo
  • Interest: Strengthening a Values and Rules-based World Order
  • Region: Latin America
  • Potential partner countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay

04 — The region

Latin America



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


In connection with organised crime, drug trafficking, and the penetration 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 extend 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 production location with 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: 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. According to estimates by the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the flow of migrants could increase to 3 million by the end of 2020, not including “transit migrants” or commuters.

  • Population: 50,882,891
  • Capital: Bogota


In comparison to other Latin American countries and despite its modest size, Uruguay serves as a model with its impressive political and socio-economic status. 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.

  • Population: 3,473,730
  • Capital: Montevideo


Brazil is the largest economy in Latin America and, with a GDP of approximately 2 trillion US dollars is one of the most important emerging markets in the world. The country has a domestic market of 210 million inhabitants and is rich in natural resources.

  • Population: 212,559,417
  • Capital: Brasilia