BRUSSELS – The European Union and Cuba signed a first-ever agreement on closer ties on Monday, and vowed that the arrival in office of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump would not impact on their future relations.
"This is a historic day, we've turned a page. Today we're starting to write together a new chapter," said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini as the 28-nation EU's top diplomats and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez signed the pact in Brussels.
The accord, aimed at supporting economic development and promoting democracy and human rights on the island, will form the legal platform for future ties between Brussels and Havana. The EU's official stance toward Cuba dates from 1996.
Rodriguez said the priority would be to develop the Cuban economy, but he noted "one major obstacle to trade relations between the EU and Cuba" — the U.S. economic and financial blockade.
"We'll have to see how things develop. But we very much hope that relations between the European Union and Cuba will continue to grow and enrich both sides," he said, adding that ties "between the EU and Cuba do not go by Washington."
Mogherini said the agreement is the result of a long process and that Trump's inauguration in January "will not affect in any way relations between the European Union and Cuba."
She also underlined that "the European Union has raised concerns about the extraterritorial effect of U.S. sanctions on Cuba. We will continue to do so because we believe that this is not only in the interest of the island and its people — all of them — but most of all in our case, it's in the interest of Europeans to tackle this issue."
Cuba puts the total cost of the 55-year-old embargo at $125.9 billion, including $4.6 billion last year.
The new pact must now be ratified by national and regional parliaments in all EU member states before it can enter completely into force, although the bloc has decided to provisionally apply parts of it immediately.