Cuba, EU hold second Joint Council meeting in Havana

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Monday reaffirmed the bloc's drive to deepen trade with Cuba and counter a wave of lawsuits against European firms as Washington increases pressure on the communist-run island.

“Cuba is a key partner for us,” Mogherini said in talks in Havana with her Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez.

US President Donald Trump has tightened sanctions against Havana over rights violations and support for Venezuela's leftist regime.

The latest squeeze on the Cuban government's finances came last week when the US curbed the amount Cuban Americans could send home in lifeblood remittances.

But Washington's drive to cut off funds to Havana has exposed European firms to huge lawsuits from Cuban-Americans, an “illegal” move which Mogherini said the EU would counter.

“The European Union has constantly reiterated its position on considering illegal the extraterritorial application of the US measures,” she said.

“We've made it clear to the US administration in previous years and months and we are now putting in place European Union measures to try to have an effective protection of European investments, of the European economic presence here in Cuba.”

Trump activated a provision of the 1996 Helms-Burton law that allows Cuban-Americans to recover damages from companies that do business with the Cuban state.

The provision had been waived by every previous US president to avoid conflicts with friendly, mainly European countries with companies active in Cuba.

Since coming to office in 2017, Trump has dismantled the rapprochement with Havana begun by former US president Barack Obama.

On Monday, EU and Cuban officials held a meeting of the Cuba-EU council, created in 2016 to strengthen trade links. A first meeting of the council was held in Brussels in May last year.

“The holding of this second council is proof of progress in relations with the EU,” Rodriguez said.

The rapprochement has paid off, the EU is now the largest investor in Cuba and its largest trading partner, with trade exceeding US$3.47 billion in 2018.

Since 2008, the EU “has committed 200 million Euros to support the development of Cuba, in agriculture, food security, environment and climate change, ”but also to accompany the modernization of the country,“ Mogherini said.

”We are at the best moment in the 25 years of relations between Cuba and the European Union,” EU ambassador to Cuba Alberto Navarro said.

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Second Joint European Union-Cuba Council Starts Today

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez and the High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, today will preside over the Second Joint Council.

The Cuban Head of Foreign Affairs and the Italian politician presided over the first of these meetings in Brussels, EU headquarters, on May 15, 2018. Official data indicate that both parties develop dialogues on human rights, unilateral coercive measures, disarmament and others matters.

At today's meeting, the parties will discuss cooperation and future dialogue on sectorial policy.

According to the Foreign Ministry, trade and investment will also be discussed, including the Helms-Burton Act, which intensifies the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba six decades ago and its extraterritorial effects.

The Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement regulates the links between Cuba and the EU and establishes the conditions for the development of 'stable, mutually beneficial and long-term links'.

This agreement entered into force in 2017 and contributes effectively to the development of political dialogue and cooperation with the European Community bloc on the basis of mutual respect, reciprocity and equality.

The Caribbean island has full diplomatic relations with the 28 EU member states and celebrated last year the 30th anniversary of the establishment of relations with the European Community.

In turn, cooperation includes areas such as food security, adaptation to climate change, renewable energy and the exchange of experiences for the modernization of the Cuban economy.

On Sunday, the EU High Representative visited the former Convent of Santa Clara located in the historic center of this capital.

Mogherini, accompanied by the Historian of the City, Eusebio Leal, appreciated how advanced the restoration of the emblematic place is.

At the moment and with the help of the European Union, this building will become the Santa Clara College for the Training of Arts and Crafts in the Restoration of Cuba and the Caribbean.

Leal thanked Mogherini for the contribution of the so-called old continent.

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Cuba Reiterates Interest in Boosting links with European Union

Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodríguez, ratified today the interest in boosting cooperation and dialogue with the European Union (EU).

In his Twitter social network account, the diplomat insisted that relations between the greater of the Antilles and the 28-country bloc have developed favorably, on the bases of mutual respect.

'We build spaces of dialogue and cooperation. We privileged the common points above those that difference us to develop stable and long-term links', he stressed.

Rodriguez recalled that last year, Cuba and the EU held the first sessions of the Joint Council and the meetings to approach issues in the area of human rights and unilateral coercive measures.

At the end of 2016, the island and the European bloc signed an agreement of political dialogue and cooperation, that represented the official end to the common position on Cuba, an initiative applied since 1996 by the EU which conditioned the approach to the greater of the Antilles to human rights issues, rejected by the Caribbean country, considering it a position of subordination to the U.S. aggressiveness and its economic blockade.

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Vladimir Putin Re-elected by Landslide 76.65 Pct

Moscow, Mar 19 (Prensa Latina) Russian leader Vladimir Putin overwhelmingly won reelection by landslide with 76.65 percent with 99 percent of the ballots counted according to the latest official reports at 05:21 local time.

The Russian Election Commission said Monday almost 55.5 million of voters supported his candidacy.

The above 76 percent vote collected is Putin's all time high electoral support, far higher than the 52.9 percent he got in 2000, his 71.31 percent in 2004 and 63.6 in 2012, the Russian Central Electoral Commission outlined.

Addressing a rally at his campaign headquarters, Putin thanked his supporters, shared views on key issues and lay out his plans for the future, on which he said: 'We need a leap forward.'

He said his international agenda will be to develop relations with nations on all continents, adding Russia is ready to overcome all difficulties with Europe, while underscoring that China is Moscow's strategic partner and he's planning to expand links with Beijing.

The President stressed 'it is important for Russians to understand that there are huge challenges before us, and we must overcome these challenges, we must complete the nation's tasks. And I count on us all to continue this work together.'

First-time Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin came in second with 11.83 percent, while veteran nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky (Liberal Democratic party), who first ran against Boris Yeltsin in 1991, finished third with 5.6 percent.

The rest of the other five candidates running for president did not reached 2 percent.

They were Civil Initiative party leader Ksenia Sobchak, Sergei Baburin (All-People's Union party), Maxim Suraykin (Communists of Russia party), Boris Titov (Presidential Commissioner for Entrepreneurs' Rights) and Grigory Yavlinsky (Yabloko party).

Results of the presidential election in Russia show the Russian people are happy with the domestic and foreign policies implemented by the current leadership and voted for the continuation of the political course, observer from Italy Claudio D'Amico told Sputnik News.

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Trump says Berlin must do more for NATO as German FM claims US leader puts Europe at risk

Donald Trump has slammed Berlin over its contribution to NATO and criticized the trade deficit between the two countries, after the German foreign minister claimed the US president’s current policy is weakening the West and putting Europe’s future at risk.

Berlin and Washington have traded barbs over numerous aspects of their relationship in the past few days.

On Tuesday, Trump responded to a barrage of recent statements from Berlin, saying in a tweet: “We have a massive trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay far less than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for US. This will change.”

@realDonaldTrump We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change

Trump believes that European powers owe much to the US, particularly in the areas of defense and trade. During his election campaign, he consistently said Washington’s allies must shoulder the burden and financially support the US military presence in the region. Additionally, he accused Berlin of exploiting the benefits of American markets and overriding US carmakers.

The president’s tweet was met with caution in Berlin. “Donald Trump makes clear with his tweet that he views Germany as a political opponent,” Thomas Oppermann, head of the Social Democrats' (SPD) parliamentary faction, told reporters on Tuesday.

Martin Schulz, an outspoken Social Democrat and center-left chancellor candidate, said later on Tuesday that Trump was “the destroyer of all Western values.” He added that the US president was undermining peaceful cooperation of nations based on mutual respect and tolerance.

“One must stand in the way of such a man with his ideology of rearmament,” Schulz added.

“The short-sighted policies of the American government stand against the interests of the European Union,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in Berlin, adding, “the West has become smaller, at least it has become weaker,” he told the Rheinische Post newspaper. 

 
© Jonathan Ernst

In an apparent reference to President Trump, he added that “anyone who accelerates climate change by weakening environmental protection, who sells more weapons in conflict zones and who does not want to politically resolve religious conflicts is putting peace in Europe at risk.”

The foreign minister later echoed previous statements by Chancellor Angela Merkel, who over the weekend sent shockwaves through Western capitals by arguing that Europe cannot rely completely on the US or Britain.

“We Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands, of course in friendship with the United States, in friendship with Great Britain, with good neighborly relations wherever possible, also with Russia and other countries – but we have to know that we have to fight for our future and our fate ourselves as Europeans,” Merkel said in Munich at an event organized by the Christian Social Union, Bavaria’s sister party of the chancellor’s Christian Democrats.

“The times in which we can fully count on others are somewhat over, as I have experienced in the past few days,” she argued.

On Monday, Merkel clarified her much-debated speech, saying that transatlantic relationships were "of paramount importance" to Berlin, although Europe must also act independently.

"Transatlantic ties are of paramount importance to us... but the current situation gives more reasons for... us to take our destiny in our own hands," said Merkel, as quoted by AFP.

She also stressed that "Europe must become a player active in international affairs.”

The strongly-worded message and the shock it caused prompted Berlin to downplay the tone and content of Merkel’s speech.

snubs for & another arm wrestle follows

Her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said on Monday the chancellor was a “deeply convinced trans-Atlanticist” who believes in the idea of Western unity.

Later in the day, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere echoed Seibert’s statements, saying: "I can only say transatlantic cooperation, especially in the security domain, is of paramount significance for our country."

Signs of discord between major European powers and Washington surfaced after the recent G7 summit in Italy. Merkel herself described her diplomatic encounter with the Americans as “very difficult, not to say very unsatisfactory.” Germany and France, two strong advocates of the landmark Paris climate change accords, oppose the Trump administration’s initiative to potentially pull out of the agreement.

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China Pleads for Unity, Prosperity and Stability in European Union

Chinese prime minister, Li Keqiang, advocated for unity, prosperity and stability of the European Union (EU), it transcended here today.

Meeting this Tuesday with the EU representatives for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vicepresident of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, insisted on the importance given by Beijing to relations with the EU, as well as the EU commitment to comply with its international obligations.

According to the official media, Li asked to work with the EU with a spirit of mutual respect and reciprocal treatment to advance in conversations on the treaty of bilateral investment and in the viability study of the free trade agreement.

We will work with the EU to approach differences in an adequate manner and improve relations China-EU inside the international order based on norms and contribute with vitality to world economic growth, declared the prime minister.

He asked both China and the EU, to adhere the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter before the complex and changing panorama.

In the Chinese leader's opinion, both parts should send a positive signal to maintain regional stability and world peace, face global challebnges, reform and improve international governance and defend economic globalization and free and just trade to face the uncertainties of the world scenario through stable cooperation between China and the EU.

Mogherini,for her part, consiodered that the EU and China share the responsibiluity of maintaining international order, face global challenges as terrorism, cluimate change and promote world peace and development.

She also stressed that for the EU is vital to maintain the multilateral system and comply with its international obligations.

She asserted that the EU will work with Beijing to strengthen cooperation, tackle adequately the differences and facilitate the progress in negotiations of the treaty on bilateral investments.

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Head of European Diplomacy Highlights Fidel as Historic Figure

The High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, has highlighted today Fidel Castro as a historical figure, after sending her condolences to the Cuban government and people for the death of the revolutionary leader.

During the signing ceremoy today in Brussels of the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement between Havana and the community bloc, the Italian diplomat began her speech by sending her most heartfelt condolences to President Raul Castro, Fidel Castro's family, the Cuban Government and people.

Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez, thanked Mogherini for her words and recalled the iconic leader's hopes that the EU would contribute to the balance of the world and the establishment of a fairer multipolar system.

Cuba and the EU have signed today a Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement considered the framework for developing their relationship on the basis of equality, reciprocity and mutual respect.

The figure of Fidel, who passed away on November 25th at the age of 90, was also remembered.

During the last weeks, many tributes have taken place in several countries to show the respect and admiration for the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution.

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Stephen Hawking: ‘The way Britain shares its wealth led to Brexit’

Physics genius Stephen Hawking has called for a reassessment of how wealth is viewed in Britain in the wake of the UK’s vote to exit the European Union.

In an opinion piece for the Guardian newspaper on Friday, Hawking said it would be “foolish to ignore the role that wealth does and doesn’t play in our society” in the aftermath of the June 23 referendum.

The professor, who suffers with motor neuron disease, said although he was stung by the ‘Leave’ vote: “If I’ve learned one lesson in my life it is to make the best of the hand you are dealt.

Now we must learn to live outside the EU, but in order to manage that successfully we need to understand why British people made the choice that they did. I believe that wealth, the way we understand it and the way we share it, played a crucial role in their decision.

He said wealth has an important role in academic terms, as the EU provided grants for science and for him personally in terms of medical care for his severe disability.

New enterprises and “cathedral projects” are now being invested in and more must follow, said Hawking. He described these as “the modern equivalent of the grand church buildings, constructed as part of humanity’s attempt to bridge heaven and Earth.

These ideas are started by one generation with the hope a future generation will take up these challenges.

These could help address a number of “global and serious” issues like “climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans.

Hawking warned that failing to deal with these issues would hand a victory to “the forces that contributed to Brexit, the envy and isolationism not just in the UK but around the world that spring from not sharing.

If we do this, then there is no limit to what humans can achieve together.

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