14 March 2016
Issue number 863
Cuba and the European Union have initialed a Political Dialogue and Co-operation Agreement that is expected to lead to a closer trade and development relationship and to a regular dialogue on political issues.
The agreement was initiated in Havana on March 11, a little over a week before President Obama arrives in Havana. Present at the signing were Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the EU for External Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, and the Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez.
In establishing a framework for a new relationship between Europe and Cuba, it ends the situation whereby Cuba was the only country in the Americas with which the EU did not have any formal co-operation treaty.
The framework agreement, which is still subject to formal ratification by the EU’s 28 member states and by Cuba’s National Assembly, creates a basis for advancing commercial and economic ties, discussing political issues including human rights, and provides for future development support and co-operation. Negotiations began in April 2014.
The signing effectively brings to an end Europe’s common position on Cuba, a policy adopted in 1996 that linked engagement with Cuba to conditionalities relating to human rights and democracy. This had been in recent years largely ignored as EU states raced to strengthen bilateral relations following indications from 2013 on, that President Obama was considering re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba.
At a press conference in Havana following the signing, Ms Mogherini confirmed she will now request that EU governments formally repeal the theoretically legally binding common policy.
“This agreement is a step without precedent in the history of ties between the European Union and Cuba,” Mr Rodriguez said. He urged the EU to move speedily to ratify the deal.
Ms Mogherini said the accord was a “landmark demonstration of the improved mutual trust and understanding,” adding that it would allow for greater co-operation across a range of fields, from energy to financial issues to joint co-operation in international forums.
In her remarks at a joint press conference with the Cuban Foreign Minister, Ms Mogherini urged the US to lift its embargo. “We agree that the US embargo is completely obsolete and outdated. Now the priorities are dialogue and co-operation, and the embargo is an obstacle which has to end,” she said.
Ms Mogherini said that the agreement marked the beginning of a new phase in bilateral relations. It demonstrated, she said, improved mutual trust and understanding. “It creates a clear framework for intensified political dialogue, and a platform for developing joint action and co-operation on global matters in multinational fora,” she noted. She confirmed that the new contractual arrangement, supersedes the common position and she would propose the European Council repeal it formally, in parallel to the processes leading to the signature of the agreement.
She said Europe was excited about the prospect of turning the new agreement into reality and achieving its objectives. Ms Mogherini said that during her visit, she held a second formal political dialogue with Mr Rodriguez. “We have addressed”, she said, “bilateral relations, regional issues in the Cuban and EU vicinity, and global matters of mutual concern, such as migration”. Among the topics covered, she said, were the economic challenges the EU faces; its refugee crisis; the fight against terrorism; the situation in Cuba, its difficult economic situation and the modernisation process it is facing.
Speaking specifically about the Cuba-US opening she observed that the US embargo “is completely obsolete and outdated”, said that the priorities now were dialogue and co-operation, and that “the embargo is an obstacle which has to end”.
In unusually strong language, Ms Mogherini noted that the US embargo’s “extraterritorial effects are illegal.” “The EU position is clear: we don’t accept that EU companies are penalised. We will work with determination to put an end to this issue which affects economic activity and development. Both Cuba and EU will work with the US to push for an end of these measures, which cause undue harm to Cuban people and society,” she said.
She said that in her conversations in Havana she had also considered the Colombian peace process, developments in Venezuela and the “deteriorating political deadlock, economic and security situation” there.
She said that it was hoped that a second meeting of the dedicated EU-Cuba Human Rights dialogue would take place in Havana in the coming months.
This is an extract from the Caribbean Council’s weekly Cuba Briefing, a leading publication that provides detailed and accurate news on economic, social and political developments inside Cuba to corporate interests with a long term economic relationship with the island.
The publication is available internationally on a subscription-only basis for those in business, government and the academic world who wish to understand on a weekly basis developments relating to Cuba.