HAVANA TIMES — The restoration of relations between Cuba and the United States “changes the context” for conducting talks between Europe and the island to reach a bilateral political dialogue, said Christian Leffler, European External Action Service managing director for the Americas.
“A more active and open US presence can help strengthen the positive environment in our discussions,” noted Leffler, who was the chief EU negotiator in the talks with Cuba, which took place Wednesday and Thursday in Havana.
“US policy has moved a little closer to European policy, one of engagement and support to internal processes in Cuba,” Leffler said at the end of the third round of bilateral meetings.
Leffler added that the goal of the European community partners is to advance a “concrete, constructive and honest dialog, to identify areas of political and economic cooperation.”
He told the press he sees as positive the decision by US President Barack Obama last December 17 to seek rapprochement with Cuba and assessed the new scenario as “changing a policy of confrontation to one of dialogue and involvement.”
The European delegation does not believe the Cuba-US rapprochement will hurt its relations with the island because its links with Cuba go back “decades with an economic presence and cooperation strong enough to maintain itself and further develop.”
Human rights, one of the most sensitive issues in the negotiations, “was deeply discussed,” but without reaching any concrete agreements, leaving the “finding of solutions” for future meetings. The European diplomat noted that on this topic the EU doesn’t want to “impose a model” on Cuba.
Traditionally the European Union includes in its cooperation agreements clauses relating to human rights, whereby the event of non-compliance can lead to the suspension of the agreements signed.
Before the start of negotiations with Cuba, the EU agreed to unlink its “common position” with preconditions, to further progress in the talks.
Since 1996, the EU applies on Cuba the “common position” that links bilateral relations to the situation of human rights on the island.
The European bloc adopted its “common position,” at the insistence of Spain, following the arrest of 75 Cuban dissidents in 2003, who have now been released.
Currently Cuba is the only Latin American country that lacks a comprehensive agreement on political dialogue with the EU. Nonetheless, bilateral agreements exist with 15 of the 28 countries that form the European bloc.
The two-day talks held behind closed doors at the headquarters of the Cuban Foreign Ministry were led by Leffler representing Europe and Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Abelardo Moreno.
The next round between the two delegations will take place in Brussels later this Spring, although exact dates are still pending.