The head of the European Union’s (EU) delegation to Cuba, Christian Leffler, says there has been “substantial progress” in talks with Cuban authorities on normalising ties between the EU and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean country.
“There has been substantial progress, including in the areas of human rights, democracy and governance, and the remaining differences were narrowed even further,” Leffler said.
The EU suspended relations with Cuba in 2003 over a crackdown on journalists and activists, according to EUbusiness.
The EU began talks on restoring relations with Cuba in April 2014, aimed at persuading Havana to improve its human rights record.
Leffler said that it is “no secret” that the European view on human rights is not the same as the Cuban view on the issue, according to EUbusiness.
“So we have to find an area of understanding,” Leffler told reporters, adding that the talks “allowed for the mutual increase of understanding on both sides.”
He said this could smooth the talks at the next meeting in Brussels, Belguim in November.
The EU and Cuba have moved to accelerate the process since Havana and Washington announced a historic rapprochement in December and reopened embassies in July, EUbusiness said.
It said Brussels and Havana have now set themselves a deadline of December 31.
Cuba wants the EU to scrap its nearly 20-year “common position,” which makes restoring European ties with the island contingent on democratic reforms, said EUbusiness, adding that the 28-member bloc is pressing Cuba to sign a slate of international human rights treaties.