Socialist MEPs visit Cuba, plead for stronger ties

S&D leader Gianni Pittella []

On a visit to Cuba, MEPs from the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group pleaded for the European Union to develop a more structured relationship with the Communist country.

Visiting Cuba from 5 to 8 January, the delegation is being led by S&D president Gianni Pittella, and accompanied by the Chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament, Elena Valenciano, and the S&D spokesperson on development policy, Norbert Neuser.

“It’s unfair that Cuba is the only Latin American country not linked to the EU by a legal instrument. We will be monitoring the political situation, and the ongoing programmes to reinforce economic growth, social cohesion and the competitiveness of the country,” Pitella said in a statement.

Spanish news agency EFE reports that meeting with representatives of the Cuban parliament, Pittella reaffirmed S&D’s support for the successful conclusion of negotiations between the island and the EU of an agreement on political dialogue and cooperation in the next six months.

The EU-Cuba talks on normalising ties drag on, however, over the sensitive subject of human rights.

>> Read: EU-Cuba talks unlikely to conclude before December deadline

Pittella stressed that the Socialists and Democrats “has always been in favor of strengthening and maintaining the cooperative dialogue with Cuba” and reportedly welcomed the decision of decision of the Obama administration to end the embargo with Cuba.

>>Read: US to remove sanctions on EU firms who do business with Cuba

In fact, the White House just announced that Obama will visit Cuba in the course of the year and work for the normalization of relations with its Caribbean neighbour.

Pittella also reportedly said he will propose that a delegation of the Cuban parliament makes an official visit to the European Parliament.

The parliamentary delegation will also hold meetings with representatives of the Catholic Church, including Cardinal Jaime Ortega, and with the government on the island, including the Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla and the Minister for Commerce Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz, among others.

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