- Title: Europe gently presses change in Cuba with political deal
- Date: 12th December 2016
- Summary: HAVANA, CUBA (DECEMBER 12, 2016) (REUTERS) VEHICLES IN STREET AND WALL THAT READS "LONG LIVE CUBA" CUBAN FLAG CARS IN STREET (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) CUBAN, ODALIS ELER, SAYING: "I see it as a good thing, if it is done as it should be done because if things are normalized as they should be normalized, as our Commander wanted, I hope that it would be a better future for us." CAR IN STREET PEOPLE IN STREET (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) CUBAN, MARIO CANDELARIO, SAYING: "A big step for Cuba because right now we are going through the situation of recent days [referring to the death of Fidel Castro] and a union of the country and the of the entire world would be welcomed so that finally Cuba could achieve that "boom" that is still missing." BILLBOARD READING: "LONG LIVE FREE CUBA" (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) CUBAN, NORGE MARRERO, SAYING: "It is a step forward that repeals all the arbitrariness in the relations [between Cuba and the EU]. Aznar caught his nose in the door [a phrase meaning that former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar received a slap in the face because rejected developing relations with Cuba] - he was one of the first to promote that tension. And the less tension there is, the better, the better for us, the better also for Europe." BUS PASSING CARS IN STREET
- Embargoed: 27th December 2016 16:02
- Keywords: European Union political freedoms diplomacy Bruno Rodriguez
- Location: HAVANA, CUBA
- City: HAVANA, CUBA
- Country: Cuba
- Reuters ID: LVA0015CKXV8J
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:The European Union and Cuba signed a political accord on Monday (December 12) that the EU hopes will position its companies for Cuba's transition to a more open economy and allow it to press for political freedoms on the island.
In the biggest diplomatic breakthrough since the EU lifted sanctions on the island in 2008, the so-called political dialogue and cooperation agreement is the first accord between Cuba and the 28-nation bloc.
Although modest in scope, it follows more two decades of EU diplomacy to set out a framework for stronger ties and comes two weeks after the death of Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro, whose imprisonment of dissidents long hampered better relations.
Many Cubans seemed to welcome the move.
"I see it as a good thing, if it is done as it should be done because if things are normalized as they should be normalized, as our Commander wanted, I hope that it would be a better future for us," said Havana resident, Odalis Eler.
"A big step for Cuba because right now we are going through the situation of recent days [referring to the death of Fidel Castro] and a union of the country and the of the entire world would be welcomed so that finally Cuba could achieve that "boom" that is still missing," said another Cuban, Mario Candelario.
Offering condolences for Castro's death, EU foreign policy Chief Federica Mogherini said the European Union was moving closer to Cuba as it underwent "profound change". EU officials say the deal gives European diplomats and officials the right to raise human rights issues directly with Cuba and to gently press for reforms.
She said the bloc also repealed its "common position" policy on Cuba dating from 1996 that set human rights and democracy as conditions on improved economic relations and which Cuba saw as interference in its internal affairs.
Rodriguez said the agreement would develop commercial, cultural, financial and scientific links across the Atlantic, saying the accord the proof both sides could "rise above our differences" and return to "mutual respect".
Normalization of relations has been tortuous partly because of resistance from the EU's eastern members due to their own communist past, while Havana's arrest of dissidents in 2003 led the bloc to impose diplomatic sanctions, limiting contacts.
The EU's strategy has been less trumpeted that Barack Obama's push for better ties with Havana, which culminated in his historic visit this year, the first by a U.S. president to Cuba in 88 years.
But EU officials say that given the United States economic embargo on Cuba since 1962 remains in place, Europe's new accord may do far more to end the island's isolation, with the EU already the top foreign investor in Cuba.
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