EU foreign ministers have given the bloc's top diplomat, Catherine Ashton (pictured), a mandate "to explore ways to try and progress" relations with Cuba in the wake of Havana's decision to release several political prisoners after talks with Spain.
AFP - The EU's top diplomat Catherine Ashton will explore a possible softening of the bloc's stance towards Cuba following its release of dissidents and economic reforms, a diplomat said Monday.
Ashton was given a mandate by foreign ministers of the 27-nation European Union meeting in Luxembourg "to explore ways to try and progress" its relations with Cuba, the source said. She is to finalise the mission in December.
Spain's new Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez made an impassioned plea to improve relations between Brussels and Havana at the meeting which moved her counterparts.
Spain's Socialist government has been arguing in favour of the EU moving towards normalisation of ties with Cuba, saying a shift would help accelerate change on the island led by the Castro brothers since 1959.
But Germany, Sweden, as well as former communist bloc nations Poland and the Czech Republic have opposed any change in the EU's "common position," a 1996 stand calling for Cuba to make progress on human rights and democracy before ties are normalised.
The EU last week welcomed Cuba's decision to free more political prisoners while urging Havana to go further.
"Cuba is willing to engage, to meet us half-way, we need to talk," said an EU diplomat on condition of anonymity.
Date created : 2010-10-25