European governments, businesses seek new ties with Cuba
Published April 13, 2014 Associated Press
HAVANA – A French foreign minister visited Cuba for the first time in
more than 30 years Saturday, traveling to the communist-run nation at a
time when it is seeking to attract more foreign investment and improve
ties with the European Union.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he met with President Raul Castro
for an hour and half, during which the two men “talked about everything,
including human rights.”
Earlier Fabius met with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez to start
the trip, which French officials have said is partly to promote business
ties and support French companies that want to do business in Cuba.
“We want to strengthen our ties with South America and particularly with
Cuba,” Fabius told reporters. “Europe also wants to (strengthen ties)
and from that we are going to be able to talk about economic, cultural,
political and international issues.”
The European Union suspended cooperation with Cuba in 2003 when the
island’s government jailed 75 dissidents. Dialogue was restored five
years later, though it was conditioned on improvements in the human
rights situation. In February, the EU’s foreign ministers approved talks
to negotiate a broad new political agreement with Cuba.
Fabius noted that his visit marked the first time in more than three
decades that the chief of French diplomacy had visited the island.
He arrived in Havana from Mexico, where he took part in an official
visit by President Francois Hollande.
Cuban lawmakers recently approved a law aimed at making the country more
attractive to foreign investors, a measure seen as vital for the
island’s struggling economy.
There are currently about 60 French companies present in Cuba.
Fabius also noted that Cuba has a debt with European Union countries and
said that talks with Havana on the issue would begin in the coming months.
Source: European governments, businesses seek new ties with Cuba | Fox