HAVANA TIMES — The government of Cuba agreed today to start negotiations with the European Union (EU) to reach a bilateral agreement, which could mark a rapprochement between the 27-member block and the Caribbean island after decades of minimal relations, reported dpa.
Raul Castro’s government responded to the proposal sent it almost a month ago by the High Representative for EU Foreign Policy, Catherine Ashton, to negotiate a “political dialogue” to end the freezing of ties.
“Cuba welcomes this proposal of February 10 from the High Representative, which means an end to the unilateral policies of the European Union on Cuba, and we accept negotiations on it,” said Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez in a press conference.
Havana, however, did not specify when the dialogue between the two parties will open, in which the issue of human rights in Cuba is expected to be one of the thorniest issues. It is a “process that is sure to be long,” predicted Rodriguez.
The foreign ministers of the EU members approved last month to make the offer to Cuba for talks, but Ashton stressed that this does not imply that the block renounce its demands regarding the situation of human rights in Cuba.
Relations between the EU and Cuba since 1996 are marked by the “common position” promoted by the Spanish government at the time of José María Aznar, which conditioned any progress in bilateral ties to advances by Cuba on human rights issues.
For some time now, several European countries have advocated for dialogue with the Castro regime, undergoing for several years a process of economic reforms on the island.
“Precisely because we support the reforms and modernization in Cuba, we have consistently expressed our concerns about human rights, which remain at the core of our relationship,” Ashton said in Brussels in February .
Some EU nations like Germany and the Czech Republic, however, were initially reluctant to establish a new dialogue with Cuba.