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19th Oct 2018

EU welcomes thaw in US-Cuba relations

  • Cuban dissidents collect EU human rights prize in 2013: The EU this year started negotiations on a trade and political agreement (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

The European Union has welcomed the agreement between US and Cuba to re-establish diplomatic relations, a move which matches with its own approach to Cuba.

With an end to more than half a century of animosity between US and Cuba in sight, “another Wall has started to fall”, the EU's foreign chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement on Wednesday (17 December) referring to the Berlin Wall.

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“The initial reaction of the Cuban government to these initiatives encourages all of us to be optimistic about a real change”, Mogherini said, adding that the developments “represent a victory of dialogue over confrontation”.

She likened US president Barack Obama's policy shift to the EU's approach toward the communist Latin American nation.

The EU started negotiations earlier this year with the Cubans on a combined trade and political agreement.

In August, the European top diplomat in Havana said negotiators had, during a second round of talks, made “substantial progress” towards a deal, which they hope will be finalised by the end of 2015.

However, the Cubans recently requested a postponement of the third round of talks, which were planned for January.

This time, human rights are to be part of the discussion, a sensitive topic for one-party state Cuba, but a crucial point for the EU.

“Human rights remain at the heart of EU policy towards Cuba”, Mogherini said.

“The EU seeks to expand relations with all parts of Cuban society, promoting economic and social progress, dynamic dialogue and strengthened respect for fundamental rights.”

In 1996, EU countries agreed a common approach in their relations with Cuba.

“The objective of the European Union in its relations with Cuba is to encourage a process of transition to pluralist democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as a sustainable recovery and improvement in the living standards of the Cuban people.”

EU-Cuba ties were strained after Cuba's 2003 mass arrest of dissidents.

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