HAVANA – European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini offered on Monday more EU financial aid to help Cuba make the reforms needed to attract foreign investment to the Caribbean island.
“We’re at the disposal of the Cuban authorities and people to share our experiences and offer financial support,” Mogherini said after Cuban and EU representatives reviewed their relations in various sectors during the 2nd Cuba-European Union Joint Council Meeting.
The head of European diplomacy said she had observed “a clear decision on the part of Cuba to update the country’s development” with measures aimed at eliminating the “internal blockade,” as Cubans call the complex web of bans and bureaucracy that drive away investment and economic progress.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez avoided speaking about the possibility of applying new measures that would open Cuba to the international economy, noting only the progress made in recent years with such initiatives as the authorization of certain private businesses, the creation of a special economic zone, and the new constitution that explicitly accepts the existence of private property and foreign investment.
The EU has contributed to Cuba more than 200 million euros ($23 million) in development aid since 2008.
Contributions to Cuba have tripled over the past two years and the European bloc is, as a unit, the leading trade partner and investor in the Caribbean nation, where important Spanish hotel companies like Melia and Iberostar operate, as well as the French construction giant Bouygues.
The 2nd Cuba-European Union Joint Council Meeting – the first was held in Brussels in May 2018 – is the fifth top-level political dialogue since both sides relaunched their diplomatic relations with the signing of the 2016 Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement.
This bilateral council has also served for both Cuba and the EU to reject once more the full activation of the Helms-Burton Act of the United States.
The Helms-Burton Act is a 1996 law that intensified the embargo the US imposed on Cuba.
On May 2, President Donald Trump’s administration activated Title III of the legislation, 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.
Several suits have been filed, including some targeting foreign companies operating in Cuba, such as Melia, Iberostar, Canada’s Blue Diamond and France’s Accor, as well as tourist reservation platforms like Trivago, Booking and Expedia.
The EU, Canada and other powers with economic interests in Cuba reject the US embargo in general and the Helms-Burton Act in particular.