Top EU diplomat meets Cuban president


U foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has announced a series of agreements with Cuba, saying member countries combined were now Cuba’s most important economic partner.

The EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini met Cuban President Raul Castro on Thursday as she ended a two-day visit to the Communist country aimed at strengthening engagement even as the Trump administration backtracks on a fragile detente.

As the US-Cuba rapprochement unfolded in 2015-2016 the EU dropped all sanctions and negotiated a political dialogue and cooperation agreement, the first between Cuba and the EU.

“The EU has become Cuba’s first trade partner and was already the first in investment and development cooperation … which means it is possible to increase the level of economic relations and investments,” Mogherini said before meeting Castro.

At a press conference earlier in the day, Mogherini said that EU member countries combined were now Cuba’s most important economic partner and announced a series of agreements.

Mogherini told journalists before meeting Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez on Thursday morning that the agreement also provided new potential in trade and investment.

Cuban state-run television broadcast footage of the meeting and said it covered the favourable state of relations between the EU and Havana and international issues.

TRT World speaks to journalist Ed Augustin in Havana.

Joint cooperation meeting

Mogherini said a delegation from the European Investment Bank would visit Cuba later this month.

She said cooperation agreements in renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, culture and expertise valued at $59.1 million (49 million euros)  would be signed shortly.

In February, Mogherini will preside with Rodriguez in Brussels over the first joint cooperation meeting between the EU and Cuba, she said.

US embargo and market-oriented reforms

During her visit, Mogherini repeatedly criticised the US trade embargo and said she regretted “that the current US administration has apparently changed course with Cuba.”

Diplomats said the EU appeared to sense an opportunity, with 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.

“Cuba does not cost so much and is very symbolic worldwide. At the same time it balances the growing Russian and Chinese influence,” the diplomat said.

Richard Feinberg, an economist and expert on Latin America and Cuba at the Brookings Institution, said Cuban commerce is so spread around the world today that no single country accounts for more than 20 percent of its total trade.

Source: Reuters