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17th Dec 2017

EU hails 'substantial progress' towards Cuba trade deal

  • EU and Cuban officials will reconvene in Havana for the next round of talks on a trade and human rights accord. (Photo: Frans Persoon)

EU and Cuban officials have made “substantial progress” towards agreeing a trade and political co-operation treaty, the bloc’s top diplomat to Havana said following the second round of talks in Brussels.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday (28 August) following two days of talks, Christian Leffler, who heads the EU’s external action service in the Americas, added that negotiators would discuss "more sensitive political questions," when they reconvene for the next round to be held in Havana later this year.

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Diplomats opened talks on a ‘Political dialogue and co-operation” agreement in April. EU-Cuban cooperation, political and institutional matters in Cuba, and trade relations are the three key elements of the talks.

“The Cuban side is clear and in agreement that the accord must facilitate cooperation among all the actors of Cuba and the EU, including civil society," noted Leffler.

He added that the EU team had made their first presentation on what the main areas of trade co-operation and investment facilitation should be.

The EU froze its diplomatic relations with Havana in 2003 after Cuban authorities threw 75 dissidents in jail but provided aid and emergency support worth over €80 million in response to the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Unlike the United States, the EU has not imposed restrictions on its trade with Cuba, but it is the only Latin American country with which Brussels does not have a bilateral accord.

Despite limited access between their markets, the EU is Cuba's second-biggest trading partner after Venezuela, accounting for 20 percent of total Cuban trade. Meanwhile, more than half of the EU’s member states already have bilateral trade agreements with Havana.

In return for better trade links, the EU is demanding that Raul Castro’s regime improves its human rights record.

For their part, the Cuban government stated in a communiqué that the talks had "developed in a constructive manner."

The two sides are hoping to clinch a deal by the end of 2015.

EU to open trade talks with Cuba

EU foreign ministers have 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.

Ashton to explore closer ties with Cuba

EU foreign ministers have asked the bloc's top diplomat Catherine Ashton to explore the possibility of closer ties with Cuba, but rejected calls to lift the EU's common position.

EU welcomes thaw in US-Cuba relations

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.

Commission won't call Castro a dictator

The EU executive says that a statement decribing the former Cuban leader as a "hero for many" is balanced and suggests that the use of the word dictator by a commissioner doesn't reflect its position.

Stakeholder

EU-Cuba agreement: A path to human rights and democracy?

The ALDE group recently hosted a conference to discuss the EU-Cuba agreement and Cuba's path towards human rights and democracy. Civil society representatives from Cuba said the agreement failed to consult the people.

Showdown EU vote on asylum looking likely for next June

Divisions on relocating asylum seekers remain entrenched following an EU summit. The east-west divide opens up the possibility of relying on a majority vote for a key asylum in June, further exacerbating disputes among opposing capitals.

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