EU, Cuba Sit Down for Talks in Brussels

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The European Union and Cuba on Wednesday began the second round of negotiations on a bilateral accord focusing on increasing cooperation but leaving difficult political questions to the side.

“This second round is focused on cooperation with an eye toward the future accord. Broader political and institutional questions will not be dealt with,” one EU source said at the end of the first phase of the meeting.

“There is a very constructive commitment, with a well-prepared Cuban team,” ready to seek solutions and contributing new ideas to the (process),” the source said.

On Thursday, work will resume with another session focusing on exploring the major economic aspects of the prospective agreement.

No additional details will be provided about possible advances until the end of the negotiating round, when the European delegation will offer a press conference.

Diplomatic sources justified to Efe the lack of details during the negotiations by noting the “sensitivity” of the matters under discussion.

Cuba is the only Latin American country with which the EU has no bilateral accord and to which the 28-member bloc applies what is known as the “common position” making dialogue with the communist island conditional on democratic advances by Havana in the area of human rights.

This policy was approved in December 1996 at the urging of then-Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar in the face of an increase in Cuba’s repression of dissidents.

In February, after more than a year of exploratory contacts, the EU decided to give the green light to talks leading to an agreement on political dialogue and cooperation with Cuba.

The European bloc’s aim is to deepen its relationship with the island, support the reforms undertaken by the government of Raul Castro and foster greater respect for human rights by Havana.

The first round of the current process took place in the Cuban capital in April with the parties agreeing on a roadmap for the negotiating process and the general structure of the future pact.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abelardo Moreno once again is heading the Cuban delegation, while Christian Leffler, the managing director for the Americas with the European External Action Service, is returning as the chief EU negotiator.

Agencies

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