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Friday, 17 May 2013

European Union warms to Havana

The European Union (EU) may begin negotiations with Cuba by the end of this year, according to Christian Leffler, the EU Americas Department Executive Director,   (pictured) at a news conference on 9 May during a visit to Havana.
This is good news and long overdue. Cuba is the only country in Latin America and the Caribbean with which the EU does not have an cooperation agreement. “This is an exception that should not continue,” said Mr Leffler.
Earlier in the week he said that “there is much to do” but “what is most important is that we are talking and listening, that we talk with Cuba and not about Cuba”. The goal of his visit, he added, was “to celebrate what unites us and to discuss what separates us. The past cannot be changed, but we have the power to shape our future. There is political will for that”.
EU policy towards Havana is governed by the so-called “Common Position”, which was approved in 1996 and is rejected by Cuba. EU Foreign Ministers agreed in November 2012 to explore crafting a bilateral accord with Havana that would go beyond the “Common Position” and called on the EU’s top diplomat Catherine Ashton to prepare a plan to negotiate a cooperation agreement with Cuba. “Starting now, what the (European) Commission is going to do is to establish some guidelines so that this cooperation accord may be negotiated, representing a step forward in the relationship between the European Union and Cuba,” Spain’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Gonzalo de Benito, said at the time.
A draft negotiating mandate to take forward formal discussions with Cuba still has to be agreed by EU member states. Any agreement is thought likely to include – as do all such EU association or partnership agreements – language on development support, political and economic relations and trade.

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