Havana – The European Union and Cuba have vowed a new era in bilateral relations based on "respect" and "mutual ground."
"We are totally prepared to move forward" based on a new bilateral agreement that entered into force in November, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said Thursday before holding talks with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Havana.
The landmark Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement – the first ever between the EU and Cuba - offers a new legal framework for bilateral relations, including an improved political dialogue, cooperation and joint action in many areas.
The beginning of a new era
"[The agreement is] a sign of good will and mutual respect that will allow us to move forward ... beyond differences," Rodriguez said.
Mogherini said that the agreement "opens the possibility of defeating difficulties and finding common ground."
The EU's top diplomat also said there was potential for cooperation in development, trade and investments.
"The political dialogue is extremely important for us at a time when we want to strengthen global consensuses to surpass possible differences," she said.
At the start of her visit on Wednesday, Mogherini criticized policies seeking to isolate Cuba and "close doors" in what local analysts interpreted as a veiled reference to US President Donald Trump.
Trump's policy towards Cuba
Since Trump took office last January, the US has made it more difficult for Americans to visit Cuba and put limits on US-Cuba business transactions, including regulations to prohibit direct payments to Cuba's military and intelligence services. Under Barack Obama, the US pursued an opening with Cuba that including the resumption of diplomatic ties and the reopening of embassies after a half century.
EU-Cuba relations had been largely determined by a so-called common position of 1996, in which Brussels demanded an improved human rights record from Havana and a transition from a one-party state to a pluralistic democracy.
During her visit, Mogherini also met Cuba's foreign trade and culture ministers and visited parliament. It was not clear if she would meet President Raul Castro.
The EU and Cuba are due to hold talks in Brussels in the first quarter.