The European Union and Cuba have signed a political deal to normalize ties after a decades-long period of being blocked by human rights due to the revolutionary icon Fidel Castro.
The accord was signed on Monday by EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini along with representatives from EU member states, and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla.
Cuba has appeared to improve its human rights record which has resulted in the EU ministers’ decision to drop a policy in place since 1996, leading Cuba to get closer links with the bloc.
Mogherini said she was “very encouraged” by dialogue with Havana on human rights and the accord would help foster Cuba’s modernization both socially and politically.
She also offered condolences on Castro’s death and told reporters “it was only natural that we are closer to Cuba as it undergoes profound change.”
Mr Parrilla said the agreement “demonstrates that with good will and respect it is possible to make progress and resolve differences.”
Cuba was the only country from Latin America not to have a “dialogue and cooperation” deal regarding trade, human rights and migration with the EU.
In 2003, the EU imposed sanctions on Cuba and suspended cooperation due to the severe restrictions on journalists and activists. It took both parties 5 years to have the talks.
Background: Cocktail Wars
In response to the “Black Spring” in March 2003 when the Cuban government jailed 75 dissidents, journalists along with librarians, and human right activists, the EU took action and announced limitations of high–level governmental visits
The EU then invited dissidents to its official receptions at their Cuban embassies in Havana, and pledged to continue on their national celebration days. The action had sparked Cuba to cut off diplomatic relations with the EU.
What does it mean for Cuba?
According to the Cuban Foreign Ministry, both parties “ratified their willingness” to continue making progress and to conclude as soon as possible.
From the press release issued after the meeting, the focused objectives under the new dialogue are to improve mutual understanding between Cuba and the EU on human rights issues, including gender and violence against women, children’s rights, freedom of expression, and migration.The normalization of Cuba’s relations with the EU, described in a document on the European Parliament website, could be reflected in “economic reforms” and “political consequences”; Cuba will become more open to influence from outside.