EU to explore new bilateral accord with Cuba
Published November 19, 2012
European Union foreign ministers agreed here Monday to explore crafting
a bilateral accord with Havana that would permit the 27-nation bloc to
go beyond the "common position" that governs its relations with the island.
The ministers, meeting in Brussels, urged top EU diplomat Catherine
Ashton to prepare a plan to negotiate a cooperation agreement with Cuba,
although for the moment the "common position" from 1996 will be
maintained, a stance that conditions progress in relations to advances
in democratization and human rights on the island.
"Starting now, what the (European) Commission is going to do is to
establish some guidelines ... so that this cooperation accord may be
negotiated, representing a step forward in the relationship between the
European Union and Cuba," Spain's deputy foreign minister, Gonzalo de
Benito, told the press.
According to De Benito, the EU sees "a positive evolution in Cuba,"
which - accompanied by the process of reviewing the relations that
Ashton has headed over the past two years - leads to the conclusion that
negotiations can be opened.
In addition, De Benito said that the "common position is being
maintained" and that this agreement has a place in that framework.
According to EU sources, in the medium term the new relationship could
replace that stance, which was approved in 1996 at the initiative of
Spain's conservative government led by Jose Maria Aznar.
In recent years, relations between Havana and Brussels have gone through
ups and downs, including a particularly low point in 2003 as a result of
the so-called "Black Spring," when Cuba cracked down on internal dissent
and jailed 75 opposition figures.
The EU responded by imposing diplomatic sanctions, and Havana in turn
responded by rejecting European development aid.