Representatives from European Union (EU) member countries have recently been in Cuba as part of the rapprochement process between that block and the island and in the context of the developments to normalize bilateral relations between Washington and Havana since 2015.

In March, following almost two years of negotiations, the EU and Cuba agreed to sign an agreement on political dialogue and cooperation and the elimination of the Common Stance, adopted by the EU in 1996 and an obstacle to relations with Cuba.

In May, the Spanish Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, visited Cuba and met with Cuban President Raúl Castro and other local authorities. Shortly afterwards, the President of the Murcia Autonomous Community Pedro Antonio Sánchez visited the Cuban capital.

During his visit, Sánchez and the Cuban Vice President of the Council of Ministers, Ricardo Cabrisas, talked about the prospects for bilateral relations and corroborated their willingness to continue strengthening mutual links in different spheres of interest.

Prior to that meeting, the visitor met with the Minister of Industries, Salvador Pardo, and the first Vice Minister of Energy and Mines, Raúl Esteban, with whom he explored opportunities for expanding bilateral cooperation.

Similarly, the Head of the Government of Galicia, Alberto Núñez, made an official visit to Cuba in May with the objective of reinforcing historic ties of friendship, as well as cultural, economic and commercial relations.

Shortly before, he had inaugurated a forum attended by a significant number of businesspeople from that autonomous community, and talked with the acting Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, Antonio Carricarte.

Belgium is another country that was also represented in Cuba through a visit by its first Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Didier Reynders, who was accompanied on his trip by the Deputy Chief of Cabinet, Marc Mullie.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister and Minister for General Affairs of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, ratified early in June in Havana that his country is willing to continue playing a positive role for further improvements in Cuba- EU relations, at a time when that country holds the six-monthly presidency of the EU Council.

All the meetings held between representatives from EU member countries and the Cuban president corroborated the progress attained in Cuba-EU relations, as well as the countries’ interest in getting closer to all Cuban sectors.

Last year, Cuba welcomed French President François Hollande, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, German Foreign Affairs Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel.

In spite of the Common Stance being still in effect, which imposes restrictions on relations between European countries and the island, Europe is Cuba’s second largest trading partner. Annual exchanges account for more than 460 million Euros and one third of annual tourist arrivals in Cuba are from that continent.

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