By Marc Frank
HAVANA, Jan 4 (Reuters) - The European Union’s top diplomat
met with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez on Thursday,
saying a landmark accord ratified in November had opened the
door to broader economic ties between the Communist-ruled island
and 28-nation bloc.
Rodriguez and the EU's Federica Mogherini called the
provisional Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement a new
chapter in their relations.
“The agreement provides new potential in the fields of
cooperation, trade, investment and also political dialogue,”
Mogherini said in brief comments to journalists before the
The officials, who have met several times over the last four
years, appeared relaxed and positive in brief comments to
journalists before the meeting began.
"This is an example of goodwill and mutual respect that will
lead to understanding and mutually beneficial progress in all
areas despite our differences,” Rodriguez said.
As the U.S.-Cuba rapprochement unfolded in 2015-2016 the EU
dropped all sanctions and negotiated the agreement, the first
between Cuba and the EU.
Mogherini’s visit contrasts with the Trump administration’s
partial rollback of a fragile detente between the old Cold War
foes begun by former U.S. President Barack Obama.
“I want to express my appreciation for the very constructive
dialogue we have managed to establish at the informal level so
far, based on mutual respect, on human rights,” she said.
Diplomats said the EU appeared to sense opportunity with
President Raul Castro expected to retire in April and
market-oriented reforms already underway.
“I believe that Europe has the potential and interest to
take an independent agenda in Cuba in economic and political
matters for strategic purposes,” said a senior Latin American
diplomat, who asked not to be identified.
“Cuba does not cost so much and is very symbolic worldwide.
At the same time it balances the growing Russian and Chinese
influence,” he said.
EU member countries have emerged as the most important
investors in Cuba, led by Spain, France and Italy, and the bloc
is the second trading partner. EU countries also account for
around 30 percent of tourists who visit the country.
“Today, Cuban commerce is so spread around the world that no
single country accounts for more than 20 percent of total
merchandise trade.” Richard Feinberg, an economist and expert
on Latin America and Cuba at the Brookings Institution, said.
“Strong relations with Europe fits into their international
diversification strategy so as not to be dependent on anyone,”
(Reporting by Marc Frank; Addiitonal reporting by Nelson Acosta
in Havana; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Tom Brown)
First Published: 2018-01-04 00:26:35
Updated 2018-01-04 20:31:37
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