Cuba and EU renew talks on relations

Talks follow resumption of diplomatic relations between long-time foes Cuba and US

Christian Leffler (right), chief European negotiator for the EU-Cuba talks and Cuba’s deputy foreign minister Abelardo Moreno (left) attend a meeting at Cuba’s foreign ministry in Havana. Cuba and the European Union will hold a third round of talks in Havana this week aimed at increasing trade, investment and political dialogue after overcoming a dispute that delayed the negotiations. Photograph: Alejandro Ernesto/Pool

Christian Leffler (right), chief European negotiator for the EU-Cuba talks and Cuba’s deputy foreign minister Abelardo Moreno (left) attend a meeting at Cuba’s foreign ministry in Havana. Cuba and the European Union will hold a third round of talks in Havana this week aimed at increasing trade, investment and political dialogue after overcoming a dispute that delayed the negotiations. Photograph: Alejandro Ernesto/Pool

 

Issues relating to trade and human rights are expected to feature during talks between the European Union and Cuba when they resume later on Thursday.

This is the third round of talks, but the first since Cuba opened a similar dialogue with the United States following the landmark announcement in December that the two long-time adversaries would restore diplomatic relations.

In almost three hours on Wednesday, Cuba and the Europeans made progress on labor, culture, education, health and agriculture, said Abelardo Moreno, Cuba’s deputy foreign minister and chief negotiator in the EU talks.

“There will be a preliminary exchange in the area of trade and the European Union tomorrow morning will present its points of view on the matter of political dialogue,” Mr Moreno told reporters without taking questions.

Mr Moreno did not mention human rights by name but that comes under the subject of political dialogue, and European diplomats have said the topic would be discussed during this round in Havana.

Human rights, the biggest obstacle for an accord, is always a sensitive subject in Cuba.

The EU is already Cuba’s biggest foreign investor, and EU officials say the proposed accord with Cuba would give Brussels a bigger role in Havana’s market-oriented reforms. That could position European companies for any transition to a more open economy and allow the 28-member bloc to press for political freedoms on the Communist-ruled island.

The EU and Cuba began the negotiations in April last year to improve relations, part of a significant deepening of ties since the bloc lifted diplomatic sanctions in 2008.

EU and Cuban officials say Cuba’s recent rapprochement with the United States has not had any direct impact on the talks.

Reuters