European Union External Action

Cuba and the EU

The European Union and Cuba established diplomatic relations in 1988. An EU representation office was opened in Havana in 2003, and upgraded into a fully-fledged Delegation in 2008. All 28 EU Member States maintain bilateral diplomatic relations with Cuba. The European Union’s relations with Cuba were then formally governed by the EU Common Position adopted in 1996.

On 21 September 2016, the European Commission adopted a proposal to the Council on the signing of the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA) with Cuba. At the same time, the High Representative Federica Mogherini transmitted a proposal to the Council to formally repeal the EU's 1996 Common Position on Cuba. On 12 December 2016 the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA) was signed and on 5 July 2017 the European Parliament backed it, opening a new phase in the bilateral relations between EU and Cuba.

EU-Cuba negotiations towards a Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement

The EU and Cuba launched negotiations for a bilateral Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA) in April 2014. The talks were concluded and the agreement initialled in Havana on 11 March 2016. The formal signature ceremony took place  on 12 December 2016 in Brussels.

The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, said: ‘The agreement will help us to fully take advantage of the potential of our friendship. It creates a framework for even stronger political dialogue, for new sector policy dialogues, and for broadening and deepening cooperation on a wide range of issues’.

The agreement includes three main chapters on political dialogue, cooperation and sector policy dialogue as well as trade and trade cooperation. The PDCA will contribute to enhancing EU-Cuba relations, accompanying the process of "updating" the Cuban economy and society, promoting dialogue and cooperation to foster sustainable development, democracy and human rights, and finding common solutions to global challenges.

The agreement 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 Cuban economy and society.

With the vote in favor of 567 MEPs, 65 against and 31 abstentions, the agreement was backed by the European Parliament on 5 July 2017. Following this step, and once the EU and Cuba conclude with their respective internal procedures, provisional implementation may start; while ratification of the national parliaments of the Member States and of the Cuban National Assembly will continue to be developed in parallel.

The PDCA is the Union's instrument defining its external relations with Cuba offering a comprehensive framework, which also complements and supports those developed by a number of EU Member States.

Political relations

Regular high-level political dialogue meetings were started in 2008, and initially conducted by the rotating EU Presidencies.

The seventh formal political dialogue meeting took place on 11 April 2016 in Havana between HRVP Mogherini and Minister Rodriguez. This was their second such formal dialogue meeting, after Brussels in April 2015.

Political relations between the European Union (EU) and Cuba are further defined in the PDCA. The objectives are to promote exchanges of views and information, to increase mutual understanding and to discuss positions in international fora with a view to defining common approaches. 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 European Union (EU) is Cuba's main export partner 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 foreign visitors.

The main export goods are mineral fuels, sugar, beverages and tobacco. In 2015, Cuba exported goods with a total value of €540 million to the EU, up 16 % from the previous year. As a result of the reform of the EU's Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP), from January 2014, Cuba lost its trade preferences for exporting to the EU, given Cuba is classified as an Upper-Middle-Income Country. This had an impact on its tobacco exports, mainly, for which the customs fees increased considerably.

In 2015, the EU exported goods, mainly machinery, with a value of €2,184 billion to Cuba, which constituted 0.1 % of the EU's total trade.

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.

Examples of EU funded programmes:

  • FORGEC (€ 2.2 million, 2013-2016) which has contributed to strengthen management capabilities in Cuban institutions;
  • BASAL (EU contribution: € 8.3 million, 2013-2017), which is reinforcing the capacity of key Cuban actors at central and local level to gather, analyse, understand and use environmental and scientific information in relation to the impact of climate change, and to elaborate and implement related adaptation strategies and actions concerning agricultural production;
  • the Expertise Exchange Programme (EU contribution: € 3.5 million, 2014-2017) which, up to now, has supported over 80 activities involving more than 1,200 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;
  • and AGROCADENAS (EU contribution: € 8.2 million, 2014-2018), which is contributing to improve the management of the value chains of milk, meat, maize and beans and to strengthen the capacities of farmers, agricultural cooperatives and other non-state entities.

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).

Likewise, in 2015-2016, the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) is providing more than €3 million to fund six projects identified in the country with the aim of responding to emergencies, as well as reducing the risk of natural disasters.

In this context, the PDCA will create more opportunities for cooperation that promote sustainable development, democracy, human rights and support for the modernisation of the Cuban socio-economic model, as well as the search for common solutions to global challenges.

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