Cuba and Europe sign deal normalizing relations

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

HAVANA (AP) — Cuba and the European Union have signed a deal normalizing their relations after years of tensions spawned by disagreement over human rights on the island.

Federica Mogherini, the EU's High Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Cuba Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez attended the Friday signing, which allows cooperation between Europe and Cuba on projects ranging from environmental protection to modernizing Cuba's tax-collection system. EU policy had prevented a normal relationship with Cuba until the island opened its single-party political system and centrally planned economy.

"The deal marks a new phase in bilateral relations, a historic demonstration of mutual trust and understanding," Mogherini said.

The agreement came nine days before President Barack Obama becomes the first U.S. president to visit Cuba in 88 years, a trip meant partly to spur business ties between the two countries in the wake of their 2014 declaration of detente.

U.S.-Cuba normalization and the promise of economic growth on the island has prompted renewed interest by European countries in maintaining their position as trading partners with Cuba.