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Es mi tercera visita a Cuba. La primera con el nuevo acuerdo de dialogo político y cooperación entre la UE en Cuba en vigor. Es el primer acuerdo jurídico jamás firmado entre la UE y Cuba. Hemos elevado nuestras relaciones a un nuevo nivel. La Unión Europa ya es el primer socio comercial, el primer inversor, y el primer socio para el desarrollo de Cuba.
Este acuerdo ahora abre nuevas oportunidades para incrementar nuestro comercio, nuestras inversiones, y para promover soluciones a los desafíos globales como la inmigración y el cambio climático
Vamos a firmar pronto un nuevo programa de cooperación para la utilización de las energías renovables por valor de 18mn, otro por la agricultura sostenible de 21 millones de euros y vamos a incrementar y ampliar el programa de intercambios culturales y de expertos por 10 millones de euros.
Presidiré con el ministro Bruno Rodríguez en Bruselas el próximo 28 febrero, el primer consejo conjunto de la historia entre la UE y Cuba para hablar de cómo podemos avanzar aún más la nuestra cooperación en proyectos concretos.
El apoyo de la UE a las víctimas del huracán Irma seguirá adelante. Hemos facilitado hasta ahora 9 millones de euros.
También estamos trabajando para formalizar el dialogo entra la UE y Cuba sobre derechos humanos, un dialogo que mantenemos en más de 40 países. Nuestro diálogo con Cuba sobre derechos humanos comenzó en el año 2015, y desde entonces, este diálogo nos ha permitido abordar la situación de los derechos humanos tanto en Europa, como en Cuba. Hay diferencias en nuestras visiones respectivas, la apertura y la disposición para el dialogo están siempre presentes dentro del respeto mutuo.
Hemos convenido también a intensificar nuestra cooperación en el área de la cultura, en particular en 2018 el año europeo del patrimonio cultural y con miras al año 2019 cuando se celebraran los 500 años de la ciudad de la Habana. Nuestra participación como Union Europea està tambien prevista en la feria del libro y habrá una nueva edición del festival del film europeo en junio.
Durante la visita me he reunido con el ministro de asuntos exteriores, Bruno Rodríguez, con el cual hemos hablado de asuntos bilaterales, regionales y globales. Me he reunido también con el ministro del comercio y de las inversiones Rodrigo Malmierca, el ministro de Cultura de Cuba Abel Prieto, con el Presidente de la Asamblea Nacional, Esteban Lazo, con el Cardinal Jaime Ortega, con el historiador de la ciudad de La Habana Eusebio Leal.
He visitado los dos proyectos más simbólicos de la EU aquí en la Habana: el Palacio del Segundo Cabo y el centro de adolescentes.
Just this morning with the Minister [of External Relations of Cuba] Bruno Rodríguez [Parrilla], we discussed and we mandated our teams to explore all the possible issues on which, from now to the end of February, we can prepare common work and common ground on different issues.
I mentioned a few of them where the work has already advanced so much that we can already foresee to come to a concrete result in the coming weeks or months. Others could be subject to the opening of discussions, as you say here in Cuba, pronto, without determining a time framework, but discussions are going to cover any subject, without any kind of exception, and obviously, we will see from now to February how much we advance with technical preparations on different issues. At the end of February in Brussels, we will held the first Joint Council, where - I think - more concrete projects and more concrete examples of our cooperation will be ready.
First of all, the second question, yes we discussed especially with the Minister of Trade and Investments [of Cuba, Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz], concrete options for increasing investments from the European Union here and, in general terms, economic cooperation. There are some obstacles to this. But, as I said, the European Union and its Member States are already the first investors, which means that economic relations are already very much developed, as it has always been the case. And this can be increased even more, now that we have this new agreement.
So I expect more investments, more economic and trade relations between Europe and Cuba in the months and years to come.
Regarding the position I expressed yesterday on the bloqueo (embargo), I reiterated simply a very well known, consolidated European Union position that I expressed during all my previous visits here in La Havana and in Brussels, every time the question was raised.
The common position of the European Union was substituted by this new agreement. We have for the first time ever, a legal agreement, a legal framework between the European Union and Cuba and this is now the point of reference for our relations.
On the shifts of policy in Washington, (I was smiling when you were asking the question, because) last time I was here – if I am not wrong – it was just a few days before the visit of President Obama here in La Habana. I remember very well, during a similar press conference, I received a question whether the European Union was feeling a certain competition or running after the United States in its relations with Cuba
This simple and obvious truth is that the foreign policy priorities and orientations of the European Union are autonomous, independent. They are decided in Brussels by the 28 Member States, with the participation of the European Parliament that has supported the finalisation of the agreement we have now with Cuba, and we follow our path.
We regret that the current US administration has apparently changed policy towards Cuba. We are convinced - as we were one year ago and as we were two years ago, that it is in our European interest; it is in the Cuban interest and it is in the international interest at large, to have relations, to discuss issues of disagreement and to deepen and extend cooperation or partnership on issues that are of mutual interest – for instance, I mentioned climate change, migration which are issues on which all the Sustainable Development Goals, the UN agenda, on which we believe the European Union and Cuba can work well together and we remain convinced of that.
So, no message to the United States, a message to Cuba yes, a message to Latin America yes, as it was the case also in my previous visit.
I will add two things on the two questions.
One on the economic relations and investments: I can announce that a delegation from the European Investment Bank is going to visit Cuba at the end of January to explore possibilities for working together and this has also been a subject for our exchanges with the Ministers today and yesterday. We are at an early stage of exploring possibilities but that would be obviously the opening of an interesting chapter in terms of investments.
The second new element I would add in relation to the US administration and the European Union position on Cuba or on other issues of foreign policy for us: the world is appreciating, in this moment, the value of having the European Union as a solid, reliable, predictable partner. We have differences but you can always know what to expect from the European Union. We are consistent, we do not have unpredictability in our policies or sudden shifts. We are consistent. The process we have launched two years ago of discussing, negotiating an agreement, was leading in a very solid manner to the signature of the agreement, the provisional entry into force of the agreement, the proceeding of ratifications. The might take time to decide but once it is decided it's solid and there is no element of unpredictability.
I am seeing that in the world of today, the European Union is becoming more and more a point of reference as a reliable, predictable partner in the world, which I understand in the world of today, is an added value we can represent for many.
First of all, as I said, the European Union and its Member States are already now the first investors and the first commercial partners for Cuba. I know that sometimes the perception could be that others are on top of the list but the reality of numbers says that the European Union and its Member States are already now the first economic, commercial, and investment partner of Cuba. This means that we are already doing a lot on both sides to have good economic relations. This also means that it is possible to build on this basis to increase the level of economic relations, investments and trade, not to mention the sector of tourism where as you know, the European Union is – I think – in this field the second partner.
On the extraterritorial effects of the bloqueo (embargo), as I said yesterday but also one year ago, in my previous visits here and many times in Brussels, we oppose this and we consider that the extraterritorial implications and effects of the bloqueo (embargo), are illegal. We, as the European Union, protect European interests – including European investments and the economic activities of the European entities in their relations with the island – and we'll continue to do so and to explore ways to continue to do so.
As I said, the extraterritorial effects of the bloqueo (embargo), risk to affect or affect European interests and the European Union is protecting, will continue to protect and will explore further ways to protect European interests.
Thank you very much for the question, also because this is a point I did not cover too much in my introduction and I appreciate the opportunity to do this now.
We have been discussing over the last years already, several times with the relevant Ministers but also with the President, the way in which the EU can accompany the modernisation of the economy in the country but also the political developments.
The fact that the island is going towards a transition – I think – is going to be a historical move and step that we would obviously follow very carefully and with great respect and attention.
It is linked to our increased level of political dialogue, and to the fact that we wish to accompany even more this modernisation with all respect and knowing that the differences between the European system and the system of the island are deep. But we believe that, especially with the exchange of experts, we can provide a lot of technical expertise and have exchanges of expertise over issues that are going to be very relevant to the economic and social modernisation, that the current leadership has already put on the table. We have discussed this at length, especially with the Minister of Trade and Investments [of Cuba, Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz] yesterday.
In political terms, it is no mystery that, as I said, one of the points that for us has always been important as European Union is the situation of human rights. As I said, there are no taboos in our dialogue. It is a very respectful dialogue on both sides that allows us to address issues in a frank and open manner.
I think our dialogue on human rights issues has been extremely helpful and useful in this respect so far. Our positions are still far away and different on this topic. But, again, I would include this as one of the points that for us would be – politically – the most sensitive and important ones. As I said, under the agreement, as well as already for the last two years, we have good instruments to address – to tell you the truth – respective differences and concerns. Here I am speaking for the European Union, but I know very well that our Cuban friends will tell you [their] respective differences. I think it would be important to continue in this constructive but very open and frank approach.
A very important part of our discussion has been and will continue to be the role that Cuba plays in the region. The increase of relations with Cuba is in the framework of increased relations with Latin America and the Caribbean.
We have developed deeper relations with Latin America and the Caribbean over the last two years, in particular [in the framework of] EU-CELAC [The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States], but also with individual countries. On certain issues, I think of the Colombian peace process for instance, but also, some of the other developments in the region, I think of the situation in Venezuela or other things, our dialogue with Cuba has proven to be useful.
We will continue to discuss, exchange information, opinions and possible ideas on how to find solutions to situations that are difficult in this moment.
The provisional entry into force of the agreement was already done on 1st November  and this allows us to use all provisions of the agreement already. In the European Union's experience, this is very normal, because we have to legally ratify the agreement in all national countries and Parliaments, which means 28 national Parliament procedures which can take a long time.
Already 7 Member States of the European Union have ratified the agreement, others are following but obviously, as you can imagine, every national Parliament has its own timing, its own agenda. In some countries we have elections which means changes in Parliament, which means new calendars to be established.
What is important is this: the fact that since we signed it, already 7 Member States ratified, the others are all in the process of doing so and in the meantime, we can use all the provisions of the agreement already.
I think and I hope this gives you a clear idea of the fact that we already entered the new chapter in our relations, definitely.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I149046