Cuba, EU close to reach political accord

Cuba and European Union close to reach new bilateral agreement that replaces unilateral policy imposed by 28-nation block

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Christian Leffler, chief European negotiator for the EU-Cuba talks, speaks to the media during a news conference in Havana on March 4, 2016.

Cuba and the European Union on Friday advanced ever closer to a new bilateral agreement that would replace a unilateral policy imposed by the Europeans 20 years ago.

Cuba's lead negotiator said the two sides might be able to conclude two years of negotiations during EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini’s visit to Havana, on March 11.

An accord would hand Cuba another achievement on the international stage.

Fifteen months ago, Cuba eased its strained relations with the United States. Also, Cuba’s debt with creditors from the Paris Club of wealthy nations renegotiated in December 2015.

The communist-led island and the 28-nation European bloc held meetings for the seventh time, Thursday and Friday in Cuba.

Representatives of both parties are seeking a far-reaching deal that would outline relations on politics, commerce and aid.

"We hope that during the visit of Ms Mogherini the right political conditions will exist so that we can conclude this agreement on political dialogue and cooperation," Cuba's Deputy Foreign Minister for European affairs, Abelardo Moreno, told a news conference.

However, EU Chief Negotiator Christian Leffler was more cautious.

"If between today and next week we can advance still more in the negotiations to finalise an agreement, clearly we would be happy, but this is an accord that has to serve us for many years," Leffler claimed in a separate news conference.

Leffler said that it was a coincidence that Mogherini would arrive shortly before US President Barack Obama. The visit is planned for March 21-22, the first such visit since the 1959 revolution that overthrew a pro-American government and brought Fidel Castro to power.

The EU's decision in 2014 to open talks was a victory in itself for Cuba as a European acknowledgment it would have to scrap its "common position.”

TRTWorld, Reuters