EU-Cuba Council agrees joint plan of action

Europe and Cuba have identified a wide range of bilateral and multilateral issues on which they will work together in the future.

Announcing this in Brussels following the first EU-Cuba Joint Council meeting held on May 15, Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodriguez, described the meeting as an important step forward in relations between the EU and Cuba.

Speaking at the end of the Council meeting, Mogherini told the media: “We have managed to move our relations to a completely different level compared to the past; differences remain in certain areas, but this is a concrete investment in dialogue, in cooperation in all the areas where this is possible and fruitful for our peoples and for the region. I believe this is a small-big element of positive news in a world that is more and more troubled, showing that commitment, dialogue, perseverance can bring good diplomatic results”.

In the margins of the meeting, the EU and Cuba signed a financing agreement for a cooperation programme on renewable energy, to which the European Commission will contribute €18m. The programme is intended to support the country in reaching its energy efficiency targets. As such it is the first ever financing agreement signed between the EU and the Cuban government.

Following the meeting, Cuba’s Foreign Minister noted that it marked an important step forward in the relationship between the EU and Cuba. “Both parties agree on the importance of this Joint Council for the practical implementation of the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA) we have signed. It shows the will on both sides to continue to consolidate the bilateral relationship we mutually agreed on the basis of reciprocity and equality of sovereignty”, Rodriguez said.

The EU-Cuba PDCA was agreed in December 2016 but only came into force provisionally in November 2017. It put an end to what EU diplomats refer to as an anomalous situation whereby Cuba has been one of the few countries in the world without any formal relationship with the EU despite Europe being the leading investor, and trade and development partner there.

Officials hope that the agreement will now provide new investment and trade opportunities and will enable Europe to support Cuba’s economic and social reform process. Speaking about this, the EU High Representative said that in addition to helping Cuba achieve its “ambitious goal” of obtaining 24% of the country’s electricity from renewable energy sources, a €21m project related to food security and sustainable agriculture is expected to be agreed soon.  She said also that Europe will be strengthening cultural exchanges and co-operation and that both the EU and Cuba are identifying ways to celebrate the European Year of Cultural Heritage and the 500th anniversary of the City of Havana.

Wide range of agreements reached

At the meeting several agreements were reached. These included:

  • The institutionalisation of the presently informal dialogue on human rights, as a key pillar of the EU-Cuba relationship.
  • Cooperation on the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda and the possibility of triangular cooperation between the EU and Cuba in third countries. To this end Europe’s Development Commissioner, Neven Mimica, will visit Havana in July to discuss strengthening cooperation.
  • The dates and locations between October 2018 and March 2019 when the two sides will dialogue on multilateral issues relating to: the countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; the control of conventional arms; coping with unilateral coercive measures (sanctions); the implementation of the UN agreed Agenda 2030 for sustainable development and human rights.

In this latter respect Europe now believes that it has the opportunity through dialogue to achieve better outcomes globally by working closely with Cuba.

In the Caribbean and Latin America, Mogherini noted that Cuba had played a very positive role in resolving conflicts and helping transition processes such as the attainment of a peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC. She noted that Europe wanted to find other ways to strengthen the dialogue with Cuba on Latin America and the Caribbean to take advantage of its pro tempore two-year presidency of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

The Council also considered the increasing importance of the Association of Caribbean and Latin American States (CELAC) as a future vehicle for dialogue. CELAC brings together all the independent nations of the Americas other than the US and Canada and is increasingly seen by nations such as China as the alternative vehicle for political dialogue to the OAS.

The EU High Representative confirmed that the issue of Venezuela was discussed. In a response to the media question, she said that she believed that Cuba could play a positive role in trying to avoid further negative developments and trying to re-open and negotiate a political solution and dialogue. The European Union, she said, “has always been investing and encouraging both the government in Caracas and the opposition to engage in meaningful, respectful, negotiated solution out of a political dialogue, and as we say it in Italian: Hope is the last one to die”.

The next EU-Cuba Council meeting is expected to be held in about one year’s time.

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