HAVANA TIMES — Cuban president Raul Castro begins a two-day official visit to France on Monday, where he was received with military honors, reported dpa news.
Castro, 84, is scheduled to meet this afternoon with President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace. After the signing of cooperation agreements between the two countries, the Cuban president will be treated to a State banquet.
According to diplomatic sources, an agreement on Cuba’s bilateral debt to France is expected, where France would agree to invest some of that money into economic projects on the island.
Raul Castro’s visit to France is part of a gradual opening of the Island’s economy, boosted by the restoration of diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba.
The visit is considered historic in France, because the last time a Cuban leader visited Paris was in 1995 when Fidel Castro was on official visit, but was not received with the honors of a state visit.
Last May, Hollande paid an official visit Cuba where he met with his counterpart Raul Castro and other Cuban officials.
France has become the main interlocutor of Havana in Europe, a place previously held by Spain, and aims to expand its economic ties with Cuba.
The French government has continually supported the UN resolution for the lifting of the US embargo against Cuba. It also favors a European Union rapprochement with Cuba. Talks between the EU and the island have been taking place since April 2014, with the goal of reaching an agreement for political dialogue and cooperation.
For several years, Cuba is immersed in a timid opening towards a market economy, as the government tries to attract foreign investors. However the economic reforms have not been accompanied by political reforms of the one-party system under Communist Party rule.