EU to work towards new accord with Cuba

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EU to work towards new accord with Cuba

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The European Union is seeking closer ties with Cuba.

It has agreed to launch negotiations aimed at boosting trade and investment as well as pursuing dialogue on human rights.

The move marks the EU’s most significant overture to the communist-ruled country since it lifted sanctions in 2008.

The EU’s ambassador to Havana, Herman Portocarero, says authorities there have indicated that “everything could be on the table.”

“There is common ground and we are actually already exploring to have common initiatives under various cooperation programmes that could include certain sectors of human rights,” he said.

“Again, bear in mind that we talk about all human rights. There is, on the Cuban side, obviously more stress on the social and collective rights whereas there is more stress from our side on the individual rights and freedoms.”

Brussels also backs Cuba’s market-oriented reforms and it is keen to position European firms for any transition to a more open economy.

The 28-member EU is already Cuba’s biggest foreign investor and its second biggest trading partner after Venezuela.

While EU investment in Cuba and progress toward multi-party democracy are not expected to change dramatically in the near future, the pursuit of the accord is symbolic, highlighting the bloc’s warmer ties with Cuba in contrast to the United States,which has maintained an economic embargo on Cuba since 1962.

EU negotiators aim to agree the so-called Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement by the end of 2015 and say Cuba has signalled a willingness to sign.