EU and Cuba Normalize Ties: Deal on Human Rights Signed

Written by | Monday, March 14th, 2016

The European Union and Cuba normalized their relations on Friday (11 March) by signing an agreement on human rights, which was the culmination of almost two years of negotiations. The historic move comes right before a breakthrough visit of US President Barack Obama to the Caribbean island. The deal on the delicate issue of human rights is thus another step towards the ending of Cuba’s brand as a pariah state that comes just at the time when the White House is preparing a capstone on the rapprochement announced in December 2014.
EU’s chief of diplomacy, Federica Mogherini, said that “this is a historic step in our relationship”, adding that “the agreement marks the beginning of a new era in our bilateral relations”. Until recently, Cuba was the only Latin American country without an international cooperation agreement with the EU. Brussels introduced sanctions on Havana and suspended ties in 2003 following a crackdown on activists and journalists. The EU has, however, continuously encouraged human rights advances in the country since 1996.
Since the same year, the EU’s ties with Cuba have been governed by the so-called “common position”, which has been updated every six months following regular evaluations. According to the common position, “the objective of the European Union in its relations with Cuba is to encourage a process of transition to a pluralist democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as sustainable recovery and improvement in the living standards of the Cuban people”.
Cuba has rejected the common position as interference in its internal affairs. The brand new human rights agreement puts an end to this policy, although it is still subject to ratification by the European Parliament. Both parties said that the agreement sets the stage for mutual relations to be based on “respect, reciprocity and shared interests.”

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