Top EU diplomat strengthens ties with Havana as US pulls away from Cuba

European Union’s Foreign Policy head Federica Mogherini walks in old Havana after a press conference, on January 4, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Adalberto ROQUE

E.U. Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini was in Havana to strengthen political and economic ties between Cuba and the E.U. This comes as the United States pulls back from engagement with the island.

CGTN’s Michael Voss reports.

This is the third official visit the E.U. diplomat has made to Cuba since becoming the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs. It’s an indication of the importance both sides attach to improving relations.

In December 2016, the European Union signed a joint political and economic cooperation agreement, dropping all previous E.U. sanctions.

This followed the renewed diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. But under President Donald Trump, the U.S. has started to reverse its engagement and re-tighten the trade embargo.

Mogherini said the U.S. trade embargo was not the solution, calling it obsolete and illegal.

“We regret that the current U.S. administration has apparently changed policy towards Cuba. I think the world is appreciating in this moment the value of having in the European Union a solid reliable, predictable partner. We have differences, but you can always know what to expect from the European Union,” she said.

In terms of trade, the combined exports of the 28-nation, European block reached around $2.4 billion in 2016. It’s the largest exporter to Cuba and the largest source of foreign investment.

Europe is not alone in looking to strengthen its political and trade links with Cuba. China is now the island’s largest single trading partner, while Russia is making a concerted effort to rebuild its influence.

Mogherini visited a former colonial palace restored with E.U. funds on her walking tour. The palace now houses a permanent exhibition of historical European links to Cuba. She then went on to a youth club, which is partly financed from Europe.

Later in January, a delegation from the E.U. Investment Bank will visit Cuba, looking for ways to further expand trade and infrastructure projects.