Havana, 9 September 2019.
Check against delivery.
I am delighted to be in Cuba once again. It is a pleasure to be with our Cuban friends, with the delegates from our Member States, including Juan Pablo de Laiglesia, State Secretary for International Cooperation and for Latin America and the Caribbean of Spain, and with the Ambassadors of the Member States.
The EU-Cuba Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement is a mark of the importance which we attach to our relations. In these uncertain times, we greatly value the fact that our partners, such as Cuba, share our commitment to multilateralism and a rules-based international system.
We also share with Cuba the challenge of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. We have made considerable progress implementing joint bilateral and multilateral initiatives for Agenda 2030. In recent years, our cooperation has focused on the goals which we consider most relevant for both parties: zero hunger and progress on gender equality. We have also joined forces to work towards a world with sustainable energy, decent work and economic growth which helps to reduce inequality.
Only together, Cuba and Europe, can we meet the global challenge of climate change. If we do not act now, its effects will have an even greater impact on us in the future. COP25 (Conference of the Parties 25) in Chile this December is an opportunity to confirm and enhance our joint ambitions. The European Union is doing its work and has already established a legal framework for implementing the Paris Agreement. We must coordinate our action to defend what has been achieved and continue to make progress in the fight against climate change, which is a question of survival for everyone.
The European Union is aware of Cuba’s vulnerability to climate change. We are prepared to help to find solutions. The European Union, Cuba and the Alliance of Small Island States are allies for the long term in this fight. Many global challenges also call for action at local level.
During the first years of its implementation, the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement has enabled us to strengthen our relations and given rise to numerous opportunities for cooperation as well as many bilateral meetings.
Within the framework of the Agreement, we have already held five political dialogues on subjects of mutual interest, such as human rights, unilateral coercive measures and sustainable development. We are interested in strengthening the follow-up to our political dialogues and, at the same time, launching new sectoral dialogues on agriculture, energy, climate change and the environment.
The high-level visits and exchanges between Cuba, the European Union and its Member States last year are a sign of our dynamic and renewed relationship.
Since development cooperation was resumed in 2008, the European Union has committed more than EUR 200 million to support Cuba’s development in three priority areas: sustainable agriculture and food security, the environment and climate change, as well as the country’s modernisation. It is a good example of Europe’s commitment to the future of Cuba.
Our meeting today also comes at an important moment in our association with Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole. We have redefined our policy with a Communication entitled ‘Joining forces for a common future’. Cuba is a key partner for us, in both the bilateral and the regional context, in particular because it can serve as a bridge between Latin America and the countries of the Caribbean.
Cuba is at a crossroads. After completing its generational transition and adopting a new Constitution, Cuba now faces major challenges in carrying out its economic modernisation in a very difficult environment.
Opening up the Cuban economy and overcoming what President Díaz-Canel has called the ‘internal blockade’ is of crucial importance. And not only in order to promote closer economic ties between the EU and Cuba. We want to see how we can exploit even more fully the potential of our economic cooperation, including trade and investment.
This year is also a special year as we celebrate Havana’s fifth centenary: five centuries of relations between Europe and this island. We hope that this new chapter in our relations can further strengthen the friendship between the peoples of Europe and Cuba. That is also why we are here: to celebrate and continue to strengthen our dialogue and our cooperation.