EU-Cuba talks not finished end of the year

havana-live-eu-cuba-relationsHAVANA, September 2 (AFP) The EU and Cuba have made good progress in normalisation talks but getting an accord this year, the stated aim of both sides, may prove difficult, an EU official said Wednesday.

“An end-2015 deal, that is the objective … but it is difficult. It is better to have a good agreement before an early agreement,” the official told a briefing ahead of the next round of talks in Havana next week.

“We will do what we can to achieve that; we are expecting another round of talks this year, in November, I expect,” added the official who asked not to be named.

Both sides reported good progress on trade and economic issues at their last meeting in June in Brussels but EU sources said then that sharp differences over human rights remained.

The EU official repeated the point Wednesday but added: “That is no surprise, we always knew that.”

The official stressed that what is known as a Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement would be a framework for ties, allowing both sides to cover a full range of issues, including human rights.

“It is not an agreement that sets out a specific agenda of actions (for either side) or a precise timeable.”

The European Union froze relations with Cuba in 2003 after a crackdown on activists and journalists but opened normalisation talks early last year as Washington moved to restore ties with Communist-ruled Havana after more than 50 years of unrelenting hostility.

The EU official said the improvement in US-Cuba ties and the resumption of diplomatic relations in July clearly helped the 28-nation bloc in its own talks with Havana.

But he also stressed that unlike Washington, the EU had had diplomatic relations with Cuba for many years and was one of the country’s major trade and investment partners.