HAVANA – The Cuban government should turn a negative into a positive by liberalizing the economy in response to recent moves by the United States to tighten the embargo on the Communist-ruled island, the European Union’s envoy to Cuba said Friday.
“Beyond looking toward the past and criticizing the Helms-Burton Act (US legislation targeting Cuba), there is also an opportunity here to improve the security of investments, to facilitate trade and investment. And on that, the European Union will be with you,” Ambassador Alberto Navarro said.
The Spaniard offered the advice during a meeting of Cuban officials with diplomats and executives from European firms with operations in the country.
The government convened the gathering as part of its efforts to reassure foreign companies that their investments in Cuba are safe after President Donald Trump’s administration activated Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, a 1996 law that intensified the embargo the US imposed in 1962.
Title III, which allows US citizens and corporations to sue entities that have been “trafficking” in property that was seized by the Cuban government on or after the Jan. 1, 1959, revolution, had not gone into effect until May 2 due to rolling six-month waivers.
“In these difficult moments,” Navarro said, Cuba ought to “pursue the opportunity to improve the investment climate.”
“I have not seen any country emerge from underdevelopment through development aid and international solidarity,” the EU representative said. “The countries that prosper, it is thanks to opening to trade and to foreign investment.”
The EU has been outspoken in opposition to the tightening of the US economic embargo, while even close Washington allies such as Canada and the United Kingdom say they will neither recognize nor enforce court judgments resulting from litigation under Title III of Helms-Burton.
Former owners of assets in Cuba have filed four lawsuits since the activation of Title III.
Navarro reaffirmed the readiness of the EU to protect the interests of its companies and said that US legislation violates international law.
He pointed out that the European commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, plans to visit Cuba at the end of June to work out the details of the EU contribution to creating a “single window” for trade and investment on the island.
Collectively, the EU member-states are Cuba’s principal trading partner, with exchanges of 2.6 billion euros ($2.9 billion) in 2018, as well as the largest source of foreign direct investment on the island.
In comments at Friday’s event, Cuba’s deputy minister of External Trade and Foreign Investment, Antonio Luis Carricarte, said that Havana “appreciates and recognizes the commitment and support” of EU-based firms in the face of growing US hostility toward the Caribbean nation.