The European Parliament overwhelmingly approved on Wednesday a first-ever cooperation deal between the EU and Cuba, despite US President Donald Trump’s hard-line stance against Havana.
The Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA), which had been negotiated since 2014 and was signed by member states and EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini in December 2016, looks to expand bilateral trade, promote dialogue and provide for joint action on the world scene.
“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, said MEP Elena Valenciano, the rapporteur of the agreement.
With the deal, Cuba joins other Latin American countries with similar agreements with the EU, whose relations with the island had previously been conducted within the so-called Common Position that linked ties to improvements in human rights.
Human rights remained a major hurdle to the deal, which had been negotiated since April 2014, with many MEPs calling for tougher language on the issue.
In an effort to placate opponents of the deal, the European Parliament adopted a non-legislative resolution on Wednesday in which MEPs urged the EU to assist “the economic and political transition in Cuba” including towards “democratic standards”.
During a debate on the PDCA on Tuesday at the European Parliament, Mogherini indicated the EU needed to distinguish itself from the United States, which has taken a step backward regarding Cuba-US relations under Trump.
“The EU will not change its mind. We will continue with dialogue and cooperation with all Cubans,” Mogherini said.
Mentioning that the early stages of negotiations were conducted in parallel with those under Obama, Mogherini said, “At the moment in Washington there is a wind of change and since there is, we have to show that the EU is not going to change course, and that it is proceeding with great courage and without any taboos. We are convincingly moving forward with cooperation and dialogue with Cuba and all Cubans.”
With the vote, the agreement, which also lays the basis for trade relations, will enter into force provisionally in the coming months.
Full implementation will require ratification by the EU’s 28 member countries in a complex process that can take years.