EU and Cuba Restore Ties after Years of Tension

The European Union (EU) and Cuba signed an agreement in Havana on political dialogue to normalize bilateral relations, after two years of negotiations.

The EU High Representative for Foreign Policy, Federica Mogherini, signed the text along with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez which allows cooperation between Europe and Cuba on projects ranging from environmental protection to modernizing Cuba’s tax-collection system.

The text should be ratified in all countries involved, Guardian reports.

The EU policy had prevented a normal relationship with Cuba until the island opened its single-party political system and centrally planned economy.

“The deal marks a new phase in bilateral relations, a historic demonstration of mutual trust and understanding,” Mogherini said.

Both parties had maintained tense relations for years because of the situation of human rights on the socialist island.

It should be reminded that the US-Cuba relations are in the process of normalization. The US president will be in Cuba on March 21-22 in a trip framed in the historic thaw initiated by Washington and Havana in December 2014.

US-Cuba normalization and the promise of economic growth on the island has prompted renewed interest by European countries in maintaining their position as trading partners with Cuba.

The agreement as “essential components” includes political dialogue, cooperation and trade, Havana Times reports.

During the two years of negotiations human rights was one of the thorniest issues. Since 1996, the “common position” of the EU towards Cuba conditioned relations to improvements in the situation of human rights on the island.

Cuba is the only Latin American country with which the EU still did not have a comprehensive bilateral treaty. The agreement is not clear on whether the new treaty of “political dialogue and cooperation” will actually replace the “common position” of the EU.

Mogherini said the EU would continue to press Cuba on human rights and political inclusion.

“In the moment we sign the agreement we agree to have a cooperation on many different fields. The European Union is already in Cuba,” Mogherini told CNN in an exclusive interview in Thursday. “But there are plenty of sectors where we can increase our common work. From economics investment to political dialogue, we have decided to increase the level of our common work.”

“The message we pass to Cuban authorities,” Mogherini said, “is that its going to be beneficial for Cuba if all the people of Cuba enjoy the changes that are coming from the opening up of the country.”