On July 5, European lawmakers in Strasbourg, France approved the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement, which is seen as a riposte to U.S. President Donald Trump’s tough stance against Cuba.
“Europe has a great opportunity to demonstrate to the United States, which intends to withdraw, that it is possible to maintain the highest level of expectations on Cuba and normalize relations with Havana,” MEP Elena Valenciano, the rapporteur of the agreement, told the press.
With the approval of the agreement, Cuba joins other Latin American countries with similar agreements with the EU. Relations between the EU and Cuba were previously guided by the “Common Position” established in 1996, which put an emphasis on the improvement of Cuba’s human rights record and political openness without using any of the coercive means favored by the U.S.
The main proponent behind changing the EU’s perspective on Cuba is Spain. It was a Spanish prime minister who proposed the Common Position in 1996 with the objective of encouraging “a process of transition to a pluralist democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as sustainable recovery and improvement in the living standards of the Cuban people.” The Common Position has been rejected by the Cuban government as interference.
Passing the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement opens new doors for the EU to help Cuba’s process of economic and social modernization, to seek common solutions to global challenges, and to foster sustainable development and democracy. At the same time, the agreement formally repeals the EU’s Common Position on Cuba.
Human rights was a major roadblock to the agreement and many MEPs called for a harder stance on the issue. To satisfy opponents of the deal, the agreement urges the EU to assist Cuba’s political and economic transition into a more democratic state. MEPs also urged the release of Cuban political dissidents who were jailed “for their ideals and their peaceful political activity.”
Once signed, the agreement will become the instrument that guides EU relations with Cuba with a comprehensive framework for promoting European values and interests on the island. It must be ratified by all 28 members of the EU before it can be full implemented.