BRUSSELS – The European Union signed on Monday an accord on political dialogue and cooperation with Cuba, signaling an end to the restrictive Common Position adopted by the bloc in 1996, which tightly regulated ties with the island nation.
The agreement was signed by High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini and Cuban Minister for Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodriguez in a ceremony attended by representatives from the 28 EU member states.
Mogherini said the deal recognized that there had been change in Cuba and that the EU would accompany the Caribbean island through its transition, bringing bilateral relations to a new level.
In turn, the Cuban minister Rodriguez said the deal would further contribute to the developing political, social, financial, academic, sporting and cooperative ties.
The deal, he said, was a contribution to balance, understanding and justice in a turbulent era with growing threats to the human species.
Spain welcomed the agreement and hoped to play a lead role in future relations with the Caribbean state.
“Spain wants to play a leadership role with Cuba, both bilaterally and multilaterally, by encouraging the EU to play a greater role in Cuban relations,” said Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Alfonso Dastis.
The minister added that after China and Venezuela, Spain was the largest foreign economic force in Cuba.
“I believe Spain, as part of the EU, is at the forefront of relations with Cuba,” Dastis said.
The signing of the deal opened a new chapter in the EU-Cuba relations, scrapping the strict unilateral diplomatic stance applied by the 28 member states on Cuba which was considered by Havana as an obstacle to normalizing ties.
The Common Position had imposed strict regulations on EU relations with the Communist island, mirroring the tone of international sanctions put in place by the U.S.
Mogherini said the signing of the agreement marked the first contractual agreement between the EU nations and Cuba.
The deal would aid Cuba on its path to social and economic modernization and provide a larger platform in the fight against terrorism, climate change and the cooperation on migration policy, said the High Representative.
It would reinforce democracy and respect for human rights, she added.
Rodriguez said Cuba was open to the new step in relations with the EU based on respect and reciprocity, adding it was possible to put differences aside in the name of progress.