The European Union and Cuba have signed a deal normalizing ties and establishing economic relations with Cuba.
On Friday, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini were present at the signing of the agreement in Havana. EU negotiator Christian Leffler and Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Abelardo Moreno actually signed the deal.
“This is a historic day for bilateral relations,” Mogherini told the press. The agreement’s timing comes in the midst of improved relations with the US and just days before President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to Havana March 20.
Christian Leffler, the EU negotiator said the deal was not rushed for signature before Obama arrives. The timing of it was merely a “coincidence.” He added he was “happy” the EU could sign a deal at this point in time.
Cuba and the EU have been holding discussions long before the US was even speaking with Cuba. The current discussion began in April of 2014, but were ongoing before that date. The EU was hoping to have a signed deal before the end of 2015.
The agreement provides the framework for continued political dialogue and establishes parameters for trade and financial aid. It replaces a former EU policy which irritated Cuba for challenging its one party political system. This agreement has been signed after about two years of intense negotiations.
Cuba was the only Latin American country without an agreement with the EU.
Many EU member countries already have established trade relations with Cuba in spite of the ongoing issues between Cuba and the EU bloc. Spain, a key trade partner with Cuba, had urged EU members to, “give EU businesses the chance to compete with American companies.” The EU is Cuba’s second-largest trade partner.