Cuba the EU and a post-Cotonou agree­ment

Stabroek News Sunday - - BUSINESS PAGE -

Just over a week ago, Cuba and the Euro­pean Union held a first Joint Coun­cil meet­ing. It iden­ti­fied the prin­ci­pal mul­ti­lat­eral and bi­lat­eral is­sues on which they hope in fu­ture to work more closely.

For the EU, the event was par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant. It es­tab­lished a di­a­logue with one of the few coun­tries in the world with which it had no for­mal re­la­tion­ship, de­spite it be­ing Cuba’s lead­ing in­vest­ment and trade part­ner.

The meet­ing was the out­come of a tor­tu­ous ne­go­ti­at­ing process be­gun in 2014 which led Europe to aban­don po­lit­i­cal pre­con­di­tions in favour of a bi­lat­eral Po­lit­i­cal Di­a­logue and Co­op­er­a­tion Agree­ment (PDCA). Signed in De­cem­ber 2016, this fi­nally came into force pro­vi­sion­ally in Novem­ber 2017 after hav­ing been agreed by the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment.

Both Fed­er­ica Mogherini, the EU High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive for For­eign Af­fairs and Se­cu­rity Pol­icy, and Cuba’s Min­is­ter of For­eign Af­fairs, Bruno Ro­driguez, described the Joint Coun­cil meet­ing as an im­por­tant step for­ward for Cuba and the EU, as well as for Latin Amer­i­can and the Caribbean.

Mrs Mogherini said: “We have man­aged to move our re­la­tions to a com­pletely dif­fer­ent level com­pared to the past”, while Mr Ro­driguez noted that their meet­ing in Brus­sels marked an im­por­tant step for­ward. “It shows the will on both sides to con­tinue to con­sol­i­date the bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship …. on the ba­sis of rec­i­proc­ity and equal­ity of sovereignty”, he said.

What was agreed was largely po­lit­i­cal and will form the fu­ture ba­sis on which Cuba and the EU will un­der­take a di­a­logue on mat­ters from which the US has all but ex­cluded it­self.

It was agreed that the pre­vi­ously in­for­mal di­a­logue on hu­man rights would be in­sti­tu­tion­alised as a key pil­lar in the re­la­tion­ship; that on de­vel­op­ment is­sues, Cuba and the EU would seek to co­op­er­ate on the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the UN 2030 Agenda on sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment; and that tri­an­gu­lar co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the EU and Cuba in third coun­tries would be ex­plored. In ad­di­tion, dates were es­tab­lished when Europe and Cuba will di­a­logue on ma­jor mul­ti­lat­eral is­sues from ‘cop­ing with uni­lat­eral co­er­cive mea­sures’, mean­ing sanc­tions, to the pro­lif­er­a­tion of weapons of mass de­struc­tion.

In Brus­sels, Europe re­peated that it wished to sup­port Cuba’s eco­nomic and so­cial re­form process and signed a firstever ever fi­nanc­ing agree­ment with the Cuban gov­ern­ment. This will pro­vide €18m (US$21m) to­wards a re­new­able en­ergy pro­gramme which aims to sup­port Cuba’s am­bi­tion of gen­er­at­ing 24% of its elec­tric­ity from re­new­able sources. It was also an­nounced that a €21m (US$25m) sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture food se­cu­rity project will be agreed soon.

Away from bi­lat­eral is­sues there was a par­tic­u­lar fo­cus by the EU on how a struc­tured di­a­logue with Cuba might have value for Europe in what Cuba likes to de­scribe as ‘our Amer­i­cas’.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ences re­main over Venezuela and other is­sues, but Mrs Mogherini em­pha­sised Cuba’s sup­port­ive role in the peace process in Colom­bia, not­ing that Europe wanted to find other ways to strengthen its di­a­logue with Cuba on Latin Amer­ica and the Caribbean.

Europe, she in­di­cated, wanted to take ad­van­tage of Cuba’s pro tem­pore two-year pres­i­dency of the UN’s Eco­nomic Com­mis­sion for Latin Amer­ica and the Caribbean (ECLAC). She also noted the in­creas­ing im­por­tance of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Caribbean and Latin Amer­i­can States (CELAC) as a ve­hi­cle for po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue. This is the body that brings to­gether ev­ery in­de­pen­dent na­tion in the Amer­i­cas other than the US and Canada and is now seen by many na­tions, in­clud­ing China, as a vi­able al­ter­na­tive to the OAS.

In con­trast, re­port­ing in the Cuban official me­dia on the Coun­cil meet­ing was low key, leav­ing it un­clear how sig­nif­i­cant Ha­vana re­gards the over­all deep­en­ing of re­la­tions with the EU. Its min­i­mal cov­er­age con­trasted with Ha­vana’s recent em­pha­sis on its bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship with France, dis­cus­sions ex­pected later this year with Spain, and its deep­en­ing re­la­tions with Rus­sia.

That apart, Cuba’s now much im­proved and for­malised di­a­logue with the EU raises in­ter­est­ing ques­tions about whether the now re­stored re­la­tion­ship may go fur­ther. Will it see the Joint Coun­cil and the PDCA as the mech­a­nism for ev­ery as­pect of Ha­vana’s fu­ture bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship with the EU, and CELAC as the ve­hi­cle for man­ag­ing hemi­spheric re­la­tions; or will Cuba now seek to broaden its re­gional re­la­tion­ship with the EU through other mul­ti­lat­eral mech­a­nisms?

Cuba has con­sis­tently laid stress on the im­por­tance of its intra-Caribbean re­la­tions. It is a mem­ber of CARIFORUM, has re­mained a very ac­tive and en­gaged Mem­ber of the ACP Group, but did not sub­scribe to the 2000 Cotonou Part­ner­ship Agree­ment. This was in part for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons, be­cause at the time some EU mem­ber states threat­ened to im­me­di­ately sus­pend it if it be­came a sig­na­tory.

Some Brus­sels-based se­nior of­fi­cials in­di­cate that they hope Cuba might now broaden its re­la­tion­ship with the EU in the con­text of a post-2020 post-Cotonou ACP-EU agree­ment.

They point out that in an ACP con­text Cuba is al­ready very ac­tive in re­la­tion to cli­mate change, sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, health and ed­u­ca­tion. It is, they say, also in­volved in trade poli­cies af­fect­ing to­bacco, sugar and min­eral ex­trac­tion. They note that ACP mem­bers ap­pre­ci­ate Ha­vana’s pol­icy anal­y­sis, its re­sponse to health crises such as Ebola in West Africa, and its en­gage­ment in help­ing de­velop think­ing on the UN Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals.

As mat­ters stand how­ever, Cuba’s lack of for­mal en­gage­ment holds it back from par­tic­i­pat­ing in EU-funded intra-ACP projects. As it is not a sig­na­tory to the Cotonou Con­ven­tion it can­not ac­cess the Euro­pean De­vel­op­ment Fund (EDF), the Euro­pean mech­a­nism that pro­vides de­vel­op­ment fi­nance to the ACP. It also does not ben­e­fit from the linked trade and de­vel­op­ment as­pects of the EU-CARIFORUM Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship Agree­ment (EPA); al­though its huge trade in goods im­bal­ance with the EU and over­all weak ex­port per­for­mance sug­gests that with­out an asym­met­ri­cal tran­si­tional ar­range­ment this would, at present, be of ques­tion­able value.

Sig­nif­i­cantly, Cuba’s recent ex­changes with the EU on mul­ti­lat­eral and bi­lat­eral po­lit­i­cal and de­vel­op­ment is­sues re­lates closely to what is now be­ing con­sid­ered for in­clu­sion in an ACP-EU suc­ces­sor agree­ment. This could, some in Brus­sels point out, po­ten­tially en­able Cuba to broaden its own in­ter­ests and com­mit­ment to South-South Co­op­er­a­tion if it were to par­tic­i­pate in fu­ture ACP-EU ar­range­ments.

Whether Cuba does de­cide to en­gage in a suc­ces­sor agree­ment to Cotonou Con­ven­tion re­mains to be seen, but if it does the sug­ges­tion is that there could be mu­tual ben­e­fit for ev­ery mem­ber of the ACP.

David Jes­sop is a con­sul­tant to the Caribbean Coun­cil and can be con­tacted at david.jes­sop@caribbean-coun­ Pre­vi­ous col­umns can be found at https://www.caribbean-coun­ re­search-anal­y­sis/

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