HAVANA, Nov. 22th (AFP) – Pedro Sanchez on Thursday kicks off the first official visit by a Spanish leader to Cuba in 32 years, as Havana seeks closer ties with the European Union faced with a hardline United States.
HAVANA, Sept. 5 (EFE) Spain wants to “facilitate to the maximum” relations between Cuba and the United States, the speaker of the lower house of Spain’s parliament, Jesus Posada, said Saturday in Havana, adding that his country will “do all it can” to smooth the path to normalization between the two countries.
After hailing the renewal of diplomatic ties between Havana and Washington as “a great accomplishment,” Posada recalled that after so many years of embargo and confrontation, “we can’t expect that everything will be all fixed up in a matter of weeks or months,” but considered that “there is a positive path ahead that will open bit by bit.”
“Spain as a member of the European Union will do all it can to make that happen,” the lower house speaker said.
He recalled that his country has stood by Cuba through “difficult times,” while other European Union countries “were perhaps not so close to Cuba as we were.”
Asked about the expectations sparked by the next round of talks between Cuba and the European Union, to be held next week in Havana, Spain’s lower house speaker expressed his confidence that it will be successful and that Spain is being “very active” in making it so.
The visit to Cuba has been “a success,” according to Posada, who insisted on its parliamentary and multi-party character, accompanied as he was by Ignacio Gil of the Popular Party, Teresa Cunillera of the Socialist Party, and Jose Luis Centella, spokesman for the leftist Izquierda Plural coalition and secretary general of the Communist Party.
Attending the meeting of the Spanish parliamentary delegation and Cuban lawmakers on Saturday were Posada, Gil, Cunillera, Centella and Ambassador Francisco Montalban on the Spanish side, while for Cuba there were parliament speaker Esteban Lazo, the head of the International Relations Commission, Yolanda Ferrer, and the leader of the Constitutional and Judicial Affairs Commission, Jose Luis Toledo Santander.
The Spanish parliamentarians return to their country Saturday night after a three-day visit, during which the met with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, the Association of Spanish Entrepreneurs in Cuba, or AEEC, and with representatives of Spanish communities in the Caribbean nation.
Cuban authorities are targeting more than $2 billion in foreign investment on an annual basis to bolster growth after five decades of global isolation, Soria said in a Bloomberg Television interview.
As part of the plan to modernize Cuba, the country is seeking to increase the number of hotel rooms and improve old infrastructure, said Soria, who also oversees Spain’s energy and industry sectors. He said he sees opportunities for Spanish companies specializing in those areas.
“The Cuban government told me of the objective for 30,000 new tourist beds,” he said. “Apart from tourism, they will need generating plants, new electricity grids, new infrastructure, roads and airports, and Spanish companies are well situated.”
Some of Spain’s biggest travel companies already operate in Cuba, including Iberia airlines, which covers the Madrid-Havana route, as well as hotel giants NH Hotel Group SA and RIU Hotels SA. Spanish exports to Cuba totaled 75.7 million euros ($83 million) in May, according to the government in Madrid.
“Despite the multiple historical and cultural ties between the two countries, diplomatic relationships with Cuba have been rather frosty for years,” said Angel Talavera, an economist with Oxford Economics in London. “This may signal a change in attitude from the Spanish government, probably concerned about losing investment opportunities and economic influence in favor of America.”
Earlier this month, Soria traveled to Cuba on an official visit accompanied by Spanish diplomats and representatives of companies including Iberdrola SA, Obrascon Huarte Lain SA and Ferrovial SA. The trip to Spain’s former colony coincided with the restoration of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
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