EU, Cuba build ties in face of US pressure

Featured EU, Cuba build ties in face of US pressure

The EU and Cuba are to sign a renewable energy deal on Tuesday, a step towards normalising relations in defiance of Washington's continuing hardline stance on Havana.

As it scrabbles to save the Iran nuclear deal after US President Donald Trump ditched it last week, the EU will seek to add substance to its landmark cooperation agreement with Cuba, which came into effect in November.

EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini has condemned the US economic blockade of Cuba as "obsolete" and "illegal", but under Trump the US has rolled back the rapprochement championed by his predecessor Barack Obama.

Mogherini and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla will lead the first meeting of the EU-Cuba Joint Council in Brussels.

The highlight will be the signing of an 18 million euro (US$21.5 million) project to support Cuba's goal of getting a quarter of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.

The EU also plans to finance a food security support programme for the island with a contribution of 19.7 million euros.

"We are committed to support Cuba's economic and social reforms," Mogherini said in a statement ahead of the meeting.

"Jointly, we want to foster sustainable development, promote democracy and human rights, and find common solutions to global challenges, such as climate change and security related topics."

Havana and Brussels will also launch dialogues focusing on five areas including sustainable development, non-proliferation, human rights and unilateral measures.

The last section will deal with the US embargo. Havana is hoping the EU will prove to be an ally against Trump.

The EU's 28 countries are the main foreign investors in Cuba, mainly in the tourism and building sectors, the EU says.

The bloc imported some 470 million euros' worth of Cuban goods in 2017 and exported more than 2.0 billion euros' worth.

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