Europe offers technical help on currency unification

Cuba and the EU have held preliminary discussions on a range of co-operation issues including the possibility of it providing technical advice to help Cuba unify its dual currency system.

Speaking at a news conference on January 31 in Havana, Stefano Manservisi, the Director-General of the European Commission’s Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO) said following a visit with a delegation from the European Investment Bank, that the EU would be interested in sharing its extensive relevant experience on currency unification with Cuba.

Referring to the introduction of the Euro and the phasing out of national currencies, Mr Manservisi observed that the EU had “perhaps the most significant experience worldwide in monetary transformation” before noting that the EU had offered its technical assistance to the Cuban government.

In Havana, in answer to media questions, the Director General said that the EU was willing to invite Cuba to join a future trade and assistance agreement between Europe and the ACP (the 79-nation group of African, Caribbean and Pacific States) when the renegotiation of the Cotonou Treaty takes place.

“While Cuba is not a member (of the present Convention), it is one of the most important players in the Caribbean, due to its capacity and organisation. We are interested in it having an active position and playing an important role in triangular cooperation,” Mr Manservisi said.

Other issues discussed during Mr Manservisi’s visit included the development of an EU funded co-operation program on renewable energy, and practical measures relating to trade, investment, agriculture, climate change, and technical assistance and promotion of culture that would rapidly turn a now much-changed EU-Cuba political strategy into deliverable actions.

Officials suggest that all such matters will be discussed again when Cuba and the EU meet on February 28 is Brussels at their first joint council (Cuba Briefing January 8, 2018) under the institutional framework, provided by the EU-Cuba Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement.

Mr Manservisi’s visit was intended to add substance to earlier political conversations between senior Cuban ministers and President Castro and Federica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission who visited in early January (Full details in Cuba Briefing January 8, 2018).

The rapid movement towards the implementation of a much deeper EU-Cuba relationship reflects a view in both Brussels and Havana that a unique window of opportunity exists for deepening relations. Officials note the US has absented itself from Cuba, market-oriented reforms are underway, a change of leadership will take in Cuba this year, and there is now a positive framework and funding for EU development assistance in place.

At the press conference Mr Manservisi reiterated the EU view that the US embargo was “illegal and unfair” and “contrary to European interests”. He also said that Europe was prepared to engage in the modernisation and transformation of Cuba’s economy.

Since 1994, Cuba has had an inefficient and hard to account for two currency system which involves a domestic peso (CUP) for wages and payment for local goods and services, and a convertible peso (CUC) for tourism, foreign trade and for some retail outlets selling imported goods. In remarks to the Cuban National Assembly in late December President Castro suggested that the unification of the two currencies could no longer be delayed but provided no further details.

This is an extract from the Caribbean Council’s weekly editorially independent publication, Cuba Briefing, which provides in depth information on current economic, political and commercial developments in Cuba and news on events in Europe and the US that affect the region. Business people, academics, and those with a general interest in Cuba find it an invaluable tool for developing and maintaining knowledge and providing an insight into political, economic and commercial events in the region

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