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The European Union and Cuba established diplomatic relations in 1988. Since 1996 the EU relations with Cuba were governed by the Common Position, but have deepened significantly since the re-launch of political dialogue and cooperation in 2008. The repeal of the Common Position and the upcoming signature of the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA) between the EU and Cuba will mark an important new phase of bilateral relations. All 28 EU Member States maintain bilateral diplomatic relations with Cuba. An EU representation office was opened in Havana in 2003, and upgraded into a fully-fledged Delegation in 2008.
Negotiations for the Agreement were launched in April 2014 and concluded on 11 March 2016, with the initialling of the text. The Council on 6 December decided to sign the Agreement, with the signing ceremony foreseen for 12 December 2016. The Agreement will be provisionally applied after internal legal procedures are completed. In parallel, the agreement will be submitted to the European Parliament, EU Member States national parliaments and the Cuban National Assembly for ratification.
The PDCA creates an enabling framework for enhanced political dialogue, for improved bilateral cooperation as well as for developing joint action in multilateral fora. It defines general principles and objectives for the relationship between the EU and Cuba. It includes three main chapters on:
- Political dialogue, addressing issues, such as human rights, small arms and disarmament, migration, drugs, fight against terrorism, sustainable development, among other issues
- Cooperation and sector policy dialogue, including inter alia areas such as human rights, governance, civil society, social and economic development, environment as well as regional cooperation
- Trade and trade cooperation, dealing with principles of international trade and covers cooperation on customs, trade facilitation, technical norms and standards, sustainable trade and investment.
The PDCA will further contribute to enhancing EU-Cuba relations, supporting Cuba's economic and social modernisation, fostering sustainable development, promoting democracy and human rights, and finding common solutions to global challenges. It reflects the expansion and strengthening of EU-Cuba relations, building on the important progress made since the relaunch of political dialogue and cooperation in 2008. It offers a framework for promoting European values and interests and accompanying the ongoing process of change in Cuba.
High-level political dialogue meetings were launched in 2008, in parallel with EU cooperation. The seventh formal EU-Cuba political dialogue meeting took place on 11 March 2016 in Havana between High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla. Both sides discussed their bilateral relations, regional issues in the Cuban and EU vicinity and global matters of mutual concern, such as migration and international terrorism, with a view to defining potential areas of cooperation. Both sides seek to strengthen the United Nations as the core of the multilateral system, and to promote the strategic partnership between the European Union and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
The EU and Cuba have already established a regular human rights dialogue, launched in 2015 by HRVP Mogherini and Cuban Foreign Minister Rodriguez, in anticipation of the end of PDCA negotiations. Two high-level dialogues have been held in June 2015 in Brussels and in June 2016 in Havana, under the leadership of the EU's Special Representative for Human Rights Stavros Lambrinidis. The Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement includes provisions to establish a formal basis for this dialogue, which dialogue allows both sides to exchange views on basic principles of human rights and address concerns. It seeks to identify areas to cooperate or share best practices and will aim to achieve concrete results.
The EU remains Cuba's main export and second trade partner (after Venezuela); the EU is also the biggest foreign investor in Cuba (mainly tourism, construction, light and agro-industries) and accounts for a third of the arriving tourists.
In 2015, exports in goods to Cuba were worth €2.2 billion, and imports amounting to €0.54 billion. Cuba's main export goods are mineral fuels, sugar, beverages and tobacco. As a result of the EU's Generalised Scheme of Preferences reform in January 2014, Cuba was classified as an Upper-Middle-Income Country and lost its trade preferences for exports to the EU. This had an impact on its tobacco exports, mainly, for which the customs fees increased considerably.
The aim of the PDCA is to create a more predictable and transparent atmosphere for economic operators and increase their economic capacity to produce, trade and create jobs, but it does not establish a free trade area between the parties or cover investment protection.
The EU advocates diversification of exports from Cuba beyond the traditional products, and cooperates to disseminate the necessary knowledge among Cuban exporters to improve the access of goods onto the EU market.
EU cooperation with Cuba is covered by the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI). Development cooperation resumed in 2008, and since then until 2014, the European Commission committed around € 90 million in the fields of food security; hurricane response and disaster preparedness; environment; climate change and energy; culture and heritage; support to economic and social modernization and management capacities.
A further € 50 million have been allocated for the period 2014-2020 to support the development of the country on three sectors: sustainable agriculture and food security (€ 21 million); environment: support for a better use of key natural resources for sustainable development (€ 18 million); support to sustainable economic and social modernisation (€ 10 million) -and support measures (€ 1 million). The selected sectors respond to the national priorities identified in the "Cuban Guidelines for economic and social policy" (Lineamientos) – a mid-term strategy approved in 2011 to promote reforms in the country.
In addition, €5 million has been allocated for the same period for social projects (supporting vulnerable groups) and cultural projects (including heritage) implemented by civil society organisations or local authorities.
Cuba also participates in EU regional programmes for Latin America. The main regional programmes delivered in Latin America and with key results for Cuba are: Al-Invest (covering the internationalisation of SMEs), COPOLAD (supporting cooperation on Drugs policies), EUROCLIMA (facilitating the integration of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies) and Erasmus + (facilitating education mobility and capacity building in academic institutions; also, the University of Havana holds a Jean Monnet Chair).
The “Expertise Exchange Programme” (with a budget of €3.5 million, period of implementation: 2014-2017) has supported over 80 activities involving more than 1200 Cuban public officials and more than 50 experts and/or public servants from Europe and other countries in the areas of Decentralisation, Public Policies, Tax Administration, Foreign Investment and External Trade contributing to the 2030 Cuban Development Strategy and accompanying the process of "updating" the Cuban economy and society.
The European Commission's department for Humanitarian Response has been providing emergency assistance to Cuba since 1993, to support the population affected by natural disasters. Since then, more than €94 million were granted to humanitarian aid actions in Cuba. Given its disaster risks and the population's vulnerability, specific support for more than €6 million was provided to disaster preparedness, e.g. on seismic risk reduction, hydro-meteorological Early Warning Systems or resilience to droughts.