HAVANA TIMES — Overshadowed of late by the rapprochement between the Washington and Havana, Cuba and the European Union (EU) will hold their third round of negotiations for a bilateral cooperation agreement on March 4-5 in the Cuban capital. The dialogue was postponed back in December and should focus this time on the thorny issue of human rights, reports dpa news.
Both sides agreed in early 2014 to start negotiations to reach an agreement on political dialogue, after years of a cooling in relations.
After the first meetings held in Havana and Brussels, the next step was to move on to more difficult issues such as the situation of human rights, EU ambassador to Cuba Herman Portocarrero noted back in November.
“The Cuban delegation agreed in principle that everything can be on the table, also human rights issues,” said Portocarrarero, shortly before the Cuban government decided to postpone the third round of talks.
Amid speculation about the reasons for the delay, Cuba and the United States announced last December 17 a landmark decision to resume diplomatic relations, broken off by Washington in 1961.
The government of Raul Castro has already held two bilateral meetings in January and February with Obama administration negotiators leaving on the back burner until now the talks with the European bloc.
In previous meetings, EU sources considered that a bilateral agreement with Brussels may further affect market economic reforms on the island and exert greater pressure for political freedoms.
Since 1996 the EU applies a “common position” in its ties with Cuba, which links bilateral relations to the situation of human rights.
The European bloc adopted the “common position” promoted by Spain following the arrest of 75 Cuban dissidents in 2003, who now have been released.
Cuba is the only Latin American country that lacks a comprehensive agreement on political dialogue with the EU. However, the island does maintain bilateral agreements with 15 of the 28 countries that form the European bloc.
Traditionally the EU includes in its cooperation agreements clauses relating to human rights and in the event of non-compliance can lead to a suspension of the agreements signed.
Before the start of negotiations, Europe agreed to unlink such clauses from the “common position” to further progress in the talks.
In the round of talks that begin on Wednesday, one of the objectives of the EU delegation is to learn the reaction of Havana to the proposal on economic and trade relations sent by the EU negotiators last year.