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EU, Cuba Sign 'Historic' Cooperation Pact

The EU's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini (right) welcomes Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla at the start of an EU-Cuba political dialogue in Brussels on December 12.

BRUSSELS -- The European Union and Cuba have signed an agreement to normalize ties after decades of frosty relations over human rights concerns.

The so-called "political dialogue and cooperation agreement" was signed in Brussels on December 12 by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, and representatives from the bloc’s 28 member states.

Calling the deal "historic," Mogherini said that "for the first time ever, the European Union and Cuba have a formal framework for bilateral relations."

The deal, which covers issues such as trade, human rights, and migration, will remain provisional until it is ratified by national and regional parliaments in all EU member states.

Sources at the European Council have told RFE/RL that both the Czech and the Swedish parliaments might vote against the agreement as concerns remain high about human rights abuses on the Caribbean island.

A policy in place since 1996 stated that Cuba first had to improve its human rights standards before getting closer links with the EU.

In 2003, the EU imposed sanctions on Cuba and suspended cooperation over a crackdown on journalists and activists. It took until 2008 to get dialogue going again.

Cuba’s revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, who ruled the communist island for nearly a half-century before handing over to his brother a decade ago, died last month.

His brother and successor, President Raul Castro, agreed to reestablish diplomatic ties and end decades of hostility with the United States.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Rikard Jozwiak in Brussels and AFP
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