French FM to visit Cuba in sign of warming EU ties
19/03/2014 – 12:58
PARIS (Reuters) – France’s foreign minister said on Wednesday he would
soon travel to Cuba, the first such visit in 30 years and a sign of the
quickening pace of improving ties between the European Union and Havana.
Cuba this month accepted a proposal by the EU to open negotiations on a
new political accord, saying it was willing to talk about human rights
as part of discussions that would end what it considers a one-sided
relationship with Europe.
On February 10, the EU agreed to begin negotiations with Cuba to
increase trade, investment and dialogue on human rights in its most
significant diplomatic shift since it lifted sanctions on the
communist-ruled country in 2008.
“I will soon go to Cuba, which is something new,” Laurent Fabius said
during a news conference with his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Alberto
Diplomats said the visit would take place before the summer. It aims to
assess the intentions of the Cuban government while giving “more
substance” to economic ties, the diplomats said.
Cuba has been subject to a U.S. embargo for five decades. It is eager to
eliminate the EU’s “common position”, enacted in December 1996, which
places human rights and democracy conditions on improved economic relations.
To do so, the two sides will have to reach a new accord that is
agreeable to all 28 member states, including Poland and the Czech
Republic, which have taken a harder line on Cuba given their own
After more than a year of discussions, EU foreign ministers decided in
February to seek better ties with Havana to support the Caribbean island
nation’s market-oriented reforms and to position European companies for
any transition to a more open economy.
Since Fabius took office in 2012 he has tried to shift more of France’s
diplomatic focus towards winning contracts in markets where French firms
are traditionally weak, as Paris looks to find growth opportunities
About 60 French firms already operate in Cuba including Pernod Ricard,
Accor, Bouygues and Total.
(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)
Source: French FM to visit Cuba in sign of warming EU ties –