Landmark EU-Cuba deal to take effect from November

A man sits along a wall that displays an image of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara during the last arrangements for Che Guevara's 50th death anniversary in Santa Clara, Havana, Cuba, 7 October 2017. [Alejandro Ernesto/EPA/EFE]

A landmark cooperation deal between the EU and Cuba will take effect on 1 November, Brussels said on Thursday (12 October), a major step towards normalising ties as tensions run high between Havana and the US.

The Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement, signed in December 2016, lays the basis for trade relations and is widely seen as a European riposte to US President Donald Trump’s hardline stance against the communist island.

EU, Cuba sign pact to normalise relations

The EU and Cuba on Monday signed a deal to normalise ties that had been blocked for decades by human rights concerns under revolutionary icon Fidel Castro.

The deal means 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.

EU-Cuba relations enter new era

The European Parliament on Wednesday (5 July) greenlit a new political dialogue and cooperation agreement between the EU and Cuba, marking the beginning of a new era of relations between Brussels and Havana. EURACTIV Spain reports.

“The agreement between the EU and Cuba will come into effect provisionally on 1 November,” a spokeswoman for the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, told AFP.

Full implementation will require ratification by all 28 of the EU’s member states, a complex process that could take years.

The two sides agreed to include a dialogue on human rights as part of the deal, which was negotiated over two years from April 2014, clearing what had been a problematic hurdle.

The rapprochement comes as relations between Cuba and Washington sour after a historic thaw under previous US President Barack Obama.

Obama in Cuba on historic visit

President Barack Obama arrived to small but cheering crowds on Sunday (20 March) at the start of a historic visit to Cuba that opened a new chapter in US engagement with the island’s Communist government after decades of hostility between the former Cold War foes.

Earlier this month the US ordered the expulsion of 15 Cuban diplomats, accusing Havana of failing to protect American embassy staff from a series of attacks on their health.

The attacks, which US officials initially suggested could have been carried out with some sort of covert acoustic device, have affected at least 22 US embassy staff in Havana over the past few months.