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EU, Cuba sign accord on political dialogue and cooperation

The EU and Cuba have agreed to a new legal framework regarding bilateral cooperation. The move comes amid a renewed effort to improve relations between Cuba and the West.

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European and Cuban officials gathered in Brussels on Monday to sign the agreement, ending nearly a decade of negotiations.

"It's a historic day," Mogherini said during a formal ceremony before signing the agreement along with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla and representatives from the 28 member states. "Today we recognize that there's been change in Cuba," she said. 

She also expressed her condolences over the passing of former President Fidel Castro, who died last month at age 90.

The European Council had already signed the agreement last week. It constitutes a new framework for relations between the EU and Cuba, calling for enhanced political dialogue and deeper bilateral cooperation on a wide range of issues, from trade and investment to counterterrorism.

Kuba Trauerfeier Fidel Castro (Getty Images/AFP/J. Barreto)

Mogherini expressed her condolences over the passing of Castro

A 'turning point'

Following the initial signing on December 6, Mogherini said the deal represented "a turning point in relations between the EU and Cuba."

"Through the new agreement, the EU is ready to support Cuba's process of economic and social modernization," the EU foreign policy chief said in a statement.

Ministers also repealed the EU 1996 Common Position on Cuba, which laid the groundwork for Brussels' human rights policy toward Havana. It contained the following line: "The European Union considers that full cooperation with Cuba will depend upon improvements in human rights and political freedom."

Kuba US Präsident Barack Obama Abreise (Getty Images/AFP/N. Kamm)

Obama with Cuban President Raul Castro during his visit in March

In from the cold

Until now, Cuba was the only country in Latin America that hadn't signed a cooperation deal with the EU. Brussels imposed sanctions on Cuba in 2003 over its crackdown on dissenters, and discussions between the two sides didn't start up again until 2008.

Talks to officially normalize relations began in 2014, though Havana continued to press Brussels to drop its human rights policy, arguing that the bloc was meddling in its domestic affairs.

The talks concluded in March, around the same time US President Barack Obama made a historic visit to the island nation after previously announcing that Washington would restore diplomatic relations with Havana. In another symbolic announcement, regular air services between the US and Cuba were restored in August.

The deal will next be submitted to the European Parliament and the Cuban National Assembly for approval.

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