Photo: Cubadebate

On June 20, members of the European Parliament took another step toward rapprochement between the regional bloc and Cuba, after adopting the first ever bilateral cooperation agreement between the European Union and Caribbean nation.

Following a vote by the Foreign Affairs Committee, Elena Valenciano, who submitted the proposal, stated that “Now that Trump wants to isolate Cuba again, the EU must make the most of this opportunity to get closer to the island.”

With 57 votes to nine, and two abstentions, European Parliamentarians approved the EU-Cuba Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement, which aims to expand bilateral trade, and promote political dialogue and economic cooperation.
According to the European Parliament’s official website: “EP Rapporteur Elena Valenciano (S&D, ES) said: "With this vote the European Parliament is giving its support to use dialogue and cooperation with Cuba as the best instrument to advance in a constructive and future-oriented relationship, beneficial for the citizens on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Pending a long ratification process by parliaments of member countries, as has already occurred in Hungary and Estonia, the proposal must first be approved by the European Parliament as a whole in order to be implemented. The plenary session vote is slated for July in Strasbourg (northeast France).

In December of 2016, the EU and Caribbean nation signed their first bilateral agreement which put an end to the bloc’s former legal framework regarding relations with Cuba known as the Common Position which, since 1996 made European cooperation dependant on “improvements in human rights” in the country.

Despite recent actions by the United States, approval of this agreement comes amid efforts by the EU to completely transform its relations with the island; and at a time of tension between the U.S. and Cuba following President Trump’s recent announcement of a tougher policy toward the Caribbean nation, representing a setback in the historic process toward the normalization of relations between the two countries, initiated at the end of 2014 by Cuban President Raúl Castro and former U.S. head of state Barack Obama.

(Information from Telesur/ AFP)