EU and Cuba formally restore ties
24.10.08 @ 09:51
The European Union has officially renewed ties with Cuba after a five-year freeze in relations and announced it will deliver millions of euros in aid to the Communist-led island.
Development commissioner Louis Michel and Cuban foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque signed a joint declaration in Havana on Thursday (23 October) that restores bilateral co-operation between the EU and Cuba and recognises the country's political independence and the principle of non-intervention in its domestic affairs.
Havana has also agreed to a political dialogue with Brussels "without taboo," according to Mr Michel.
"We have stated the will to deepen a constructive and respectful dialogue that must be based on strict respect, without taboo," said Mr Michel after signing the declaration, newswires report.
The commissioner added that the occasion marks the renewal of "strong, strategic, useful, positive and respectful relations" with Havana.
Cuban foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque said: "There has been an important advance in the relations between the EU and Cuba."
The EU is to immediately deliver an emergency €2 million to aid reconstruction efforts after two hurricanes, Ike and Gustave, hit Cuba at the end of the summer, causing billions of euros of damage to homes, farms and infrastructure.
A further €25 to €30 million will be provided next year, following the visit of an EU delegation to the island in November to assess Cuban aid requirements.
The agreement renews relations after a five-year deep freeze. The EU imposed sanctions on Havana after the 2003 arrest of 75 opponents of the Communist government accused of receiving funding from Washington and the execution of three Cubans for hijacking a ferry and ordering it to travel to the United States.
The sanctions were suspended in 2005 and lifted entirely in June this year. The EU wants to offer encouragement after Raul Castro replaced his brother, Fidel, as president of the country in the hope that the new leader will put Cuba on the path toward liberalisation of the island's economy.
Some 55 opponents remain in jail. Mr Michel has no plans to meet any opposition groups over the course of his trip, which is to end on Sunday.