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Cuba, European Union to finalize deal amid thaw in relations

Cuba, to finalize deal amid thaw in relations
By Patrick Oppmann, CNN
Updated 0739 GMT (1539 HKT) March 11, 2016

Story highlights
European Union foreign policy chief to meet with island’s foreign minister
The two will nail down deal, two years in the making, that seeks to
improve relations
Havana, Cuba (CNN)The chill may soon be gone in relations between Cuba
and the European Union.

For over two decades -Cuba ties have been strained over issues like
and restrictions on political parties in Cuba.

But on Friday, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini will meet with
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parilla to finalize a deal that
officials have negotiated for the past two years to improve relations.

“In the moment we sign the agreement we agree to have a cooperation on
many different fields. The European Union is already in Cuba,” Mogherini
told CNN in an exclusive interview Thursday. “But there are plenty of
sectors where we can increase our common work. From economics
to political dialogue, we have decided to increase the level of our
common work.”

The EU suspended relations with Cuba following the 2003 “black spring”
crackdown on anti-government activists and made any strengthening of
ties contingent on an improvement of human rights on the island.

The landmark restoration of diplomatic ties between the United States
and Cuba in 2015 gave the talks between the communist-run island and the
28-member European bloc a greater sense of urgency.

Obama visits looms
Later in this month, Barack Obama is scheduled to visit Cuba,
the first trip by any U.S. president to the island in nearly 90 years.
Obama is expected to take in a U.S.-Cuba baseball game, meet with Cuban
President and talk with government critics.

“This is not only a historic visit, it’s an exciting visit. I am of a
generation that has always dreamt of America engaging so much in
dialogue and peace building, bridges building,” Mogherini said.

Critics of Obama’s visit say that the Cuban government has not changed
it’s treatment of political opponents.

The Cuban government has rejected criticism of its human rights record
and single party form of government, claiming foreign governments pay
activists to stir up trouble.

Mogherini said the EU would continue to press Cuba on human rights and
political inclusion.

“The message we pass to Cuban authorities,” Mogherini said, “is that its
going to be beneficial for Cuba if all the people of Cuba enjoy the
changes that are coming from the opening up of the country.”

Source: Cuba, European Union to finalize deal amid thaw in relations –
CNN.com –
edition.cnn.com/2016/03/11/americas/cuba-eu-relations/index.html

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