HAVANA – Europe’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, met on Wednesday in Havana with Cuban Foreign Trade and Investment Minister Rodrigo Malmierca at the start of her official visit to the island to strengthen relations and accelerate the implementation of the bilateral accord with the European Union.
Mogherini and Malmierca discussed the possibilities for strengthening economic cooperation between the Caribbean island the European bloc, as set forth in the political dialogue and cooperation accord the two parties signed in December 2016 and which provisionally entered into force on Nov. 1.
This is Mogherini’s third visit to Cuba since March 2015, thus demonstrating “the interest of both parties in developing our relationship,” Malmierca said at the start of their discussion.
The European, meanwhile, emphasized that the joint work done so far has been “very good” and expressed her wish to tighten cooperation “not only in the economic and business sphere, but also in sectors like culture.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Mogherini is scheduled to hold a conference entitled “The European Union and Latin America,” and she will meet with Cuban Culture Minister Abel Prieto.
She will also visit a teen center in Old Havana financed with European funds and will tour the Segundo Cabo Palace, restored with EU financing and reopened two years ago as a center for Cuban-European cultural relations.
On Thursday, on the last day of her visit, Mogherini will meet with the president of the Cuban National Assembly, Esteban Lazo and with Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez with the aim of accelerating implementation of the bilateral accord.
Before ending her visit, she will offer a press conference and may meet with Cuban President Raul Castro, with whom she met previously in March 2016, although such an encounter is not listed on her trip’s official agenda.
Although the Cuba-EU pact entered provisionally into force on Nov. 1, it must be approved by the parliaments of all 28 EU member states before it can be fully implemented.
Mogherini and Rodriguez signed the pact in Brussels in December 2016, after almost two years of negotiations.
The accord heralded the end of the EU’s “common position,” the restrictive unilateral policy imposed by the bloc on the island in 1996 that linked dialogue with the communist regime to Havana’s advances in human rights and greater democratic opening.