EU agrees to launch negotiations with Cuba

The European Union has agreed to launch negotiations with Cuba aimed at restoring full bilateral relations with the Communist-run island.

The talks, which could begin as soon as next month, will try to increase trade and investment, and include a dialogue on human rights, officials said.

Since 1996, the EU has restricted its ties with Cuba to encourage multi-party democracy and progress on human rights.

The bloc is Cuba’s second-biggest trading partner after Venezuela.

It represents a major source of investment, and hundreds of thousands of European tourists visit the island every year.

‘Vote of confidence’

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton stressed that human rights remained “at the core” of its dealings with Cuba.

“These negotiations will help consolidate our engagement with Cuba,” she said. “I hope Cuba will take up this offer.”

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