Netherlands offers to mediate to spur Cuba-EU negotiations

 havana-live-bert-koendersHAVANA, May 8  (EFE) Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said Thursday in Havana that his country is ready to act as a mediator to “stimulate” the negotiations between Cuba and the European Union for a bilateral accord on the basis of the “solid relationship” The Netherlands has with the island.

Holland’s top diplomat noted that his country was one of the “promoters” of launching negotiations in April 2014 with an eye toward obtaining an agreement on political dialogue and cooperation and a “crucial actor” in pushing the talks foward to finalize a deal before the end of the year.

“It’s important that we strengthen the discussions. But without pressuring things, if we want a good agreement both for Cuba and for the EU. We have to ensure that we discuss all the questions and I think that there’s a spirit on the part of both parties to achieve it. And we’re going to stimulate that,” he emphasized.

Koenders met on Thursday morning with Cuban Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel and with the interim foreign minister, Marcelino Medina, and he is scheduled during the course of the day to hold meetings with the head of foreign trade and investment, Rodrigo Malmierca, and with Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the Catholic Church’s top official on the island.

The Dutch minister also said that the purpose of his trip is “to strengthen links between two friendly nations” and identify economic areas in which Holland can contribute to the island’s process of reforms to “update” its socialist model.

Koenders said that there is already a “solid” Dutch business presence on the island, which works basically in the infrastructure and shipbuilding sectors, but Holland wants to increase that presence in “the areas that are priorities for Cuba,” including agriculture, food security, energy and tourism.

With that in mind, the minister said that over the past year several small Dutch trade missions had traveled to the island but a much larger business delegation is preparing to visit Cuba at the beginning of next year.

He also said that Holland and Cuba are on the verge of agreement on two big investment projects that will be announced soon, although he provided no further details about them.

He also noted that Holland is Cuba’s second-largest European trade and investment partner, after Spain.

Koenders said that his visit to Cuba “gives continuity” to the one made by his predecessor, Frans Timmermans, who traveled to the island in January 2014 to increase bilateral ties and push relations with the EU.

On that occasion, the governments of Cuba and Holland signed an accord to establish a bilateral consultation mechanism.