News and Facts about Cuba

Germany and Cuba See Benefits of Rapprochement

and Cuba See Benefits of Rapprochement
On eve of -Latin American summit, foreign ministers play up improved
atmosphere between Havana and West
By NAFTALI BENDAVID And GABRIELE STEINHAUSER
June 9, 2015 1:16 p.m. ET

BRUSSELS—On the eve of a summit between the and Latin
America, the foreign ministers of Germany and Cuba said thawing
relations between Havana and the West could provide some much-needed
stability during a period of global unrest.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s foreign minister, said improving ties
between the U.S. and Cuba set the stage for broader progress. “We in
Europe, and we in Germany, are happy that many decades of standstill and
silence are coming to an end,” Mr. Steinmeier told reporters.

He added that the warming of relations sends a good signal of
“de-escalation and relaxation.” Mr. Steinmeier said he had accepted an
invitation from his counterpart, Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez
Parilla, to visit Havana later this year.

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Mr. Rodriguez suggested improved relations could bring economic benefits
for both sides. “The modernization of the Cuban also presents an
opportunity for the German economy,” he said.

The two ministers met a day before dozens of heads of state and
government from Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean were to gather
in Brussels. The discussion is expected to focus in large part on trade
and the economy, but subjects like the rapprochement with Cuba and
concerns about ’s hard-line regime are likely to crop up,
informally at least.

U.S. Barack Obama said in December that the U.S. would move
toward restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba, ending a half-century
of hostility between the two countries. That has given momentum to the
EU’s continuing talks with the island nation.

Europe’s relations with Cuba were not as antagonistic as those between
the U.S. and Cuba, and the two were already discussing ways to improve
ties in areas like trade and .

Those talks accelerated following Mr. Obama’s announcement. Federica
Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, visited Cuba earlier this year,
while Mr. Rodriguez came to Brussels in April.

The EU and Cuba are seeking a framework agreement, which, among other
things, would establish regular meetings between high-ranking ministers
of the two sides. EU officials hope to reach a deal by year’s end, and
they recently said the next EU-Cuba meeting will be next week.

But relations haven’t always been smooth. Europe has regularly protested
alleged human-rights violations by the Cuban regime. In 2003, the EU
suspended ties with Cuba after then-President Fidel Castro imprisoned
scores of dissidents in a crackdown known as Black Spring.

Relations resumed in 2008 when Raúl Castro took over from his brother
and sent signals he was interested in reform. Since then, the Black
Spring prisoners have been released and the EU has committed to spending
about $67 million in Cuba on such projects as post-hurricane
construction and renewable energy.

The EU is now Cuba’s second-biggest trading partner, accounting for
about 20% of the island’s total trade. Roughly one-third of the tourists
visiting the island each year come from the European Union.

Write to Naftali Bendavid at and Gabriele
Steinhauser at

Source: Germany and Cuba See Benefits of Rapprochement – WSJ –
http://www.wsj.com/articles/germany-and-cuba-see-benefits-of-rapprochement-1433870207

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