Monday

25th Jul 2016

EU to open trade talks with Cuba

  • The EU is Cuba's second-biggest trading partner after Venezuela, accounting for 20 percent of total Cuban trade (Photo: wikipedia)

EU foreign ministers on Monday (10 February) agreed to open talks on a trade and political relationship with Cuba, raising the prospect of a new era in relations between Brussels and Havana.

The talks on a so-called "Bilateral Political Dialogue and Co-operation Agreement", which could start as early as next month, are expected to focus on increasing trade and investment, as well as human rights on the Caribbean island.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"These negotiations will help consolidate our engagement with Cuba," EU foreign affairs chief Cathy Ashton said in a statement.

However, she warned that human rights remained "at the core" of any future EU-Cuban relationship.

"I hope Cuba will do what is necessary on its side, especially on ... human rights," she said, adding that "the pace of our negotiations will reflect this."

Negotiators aim to agree a deal by the end of 2015, but the mere prospect of dialogue signals what could be a major change in the future relationship between the EU and Cuba.

Since 1996, the EU has restricted its ties with Cuba to encourage multi-party democracy and progress on human rights.

The EU froze its diplomatic relations with Havana in 2003 after Cuban authorities threw 75 dissidents in jail. Limited contacts resumed five years later in 2008 following the release of the prisoners, but a number of former Communist EU states, including the Czech Republic and Poland, remained sceptical at any prospect of deepening political and economic ties.

But despite limited access, the bloc is Cuba's second-biggest trading partner after Venezuela, accounting for 20 percent of total Cuban trade, while more than half of EU member states already have bilateral trade agreements with Cuba.

Europeans also make up one third of the thousands of foreign tourists who visit the island each year.

Since 2008, Cuba has also received over €80 million in development aid and emergency support in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

For his part, Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans, who last month urged the EU to reconsider its relationship with Cuba during a ministerial visit there, expressed his satisfaction with the result.

"I am very happy that we now have a different position on Cuba," he told reporters. 

"That does not mean we have a different judgement on the situation in Cuba, but we have a different approach to engage Cuba in a dialogue, to try and bring about political change, to stimulate economic reform and political change." 

Investigation

ECB in ‘bail-out’ of scandal-tainted VW

The ECB has started to “bail out” Germany’s Volkswagen Group by buying its corporate bonds, but other EU-linked banks continue to shun the scandal-tainted firm.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Belgrade Security ForumMigration, Security and Solidarity within Global Disorder: Academic Event 2016
  2. GoogleHow Google Fights Piracy: Creating Value While Fighting Piracy
  3. EJC"My Visit to Israel" - Opinion by MEP Lopez Aguilar, Chair of the EP Working Group on Antisemitism
  4. World VisionChildren Migrating, Out of School and at Work as Hunger Deepens in Southern Africa
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStand-Up (and Exercise) to Prevent Chronic Diseases
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersLaunches a Real-time News Hub Specialised in EU Stakeholders
  7. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen Calls for International Probe Into Turkey Coup Allegations
  8. GoogleEU-US Privacy Shield: Restoring Faith in Data Flows and Transatlantic Relations
  9. World VisionWorld Leaders & Youth Advocates Launch Partnership to End Violence Vs. Children
  10. Counter BalanceReport: Institutionalised Corruption in Romania's Third Largest Company
  11. Access NowEuropol Supports Encryption. We Can Relax Now… Right?
  12. GoogleLearn about Google's projects across Europe on Twitter @GoogleBrussels