The European Union (EU) advised Cuba on Friday to make out of the problem an opportunity and facilitate more trade and investment in the country, in the face of the recent strengthening of the U.S. embargo through the activation of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, which had been frozen for two decades.
“Beyond looking at the past and criticizing the Helms-Burton Act, there is also an opportunity here to improve the security of investments, to facilitate trade and investments and there the European Union will be with you,” said the European ambassador to Cuba, Spaniard Alberto Navarro.
The diplomat recommended this during a working meeting of the Cuban government with diplomats and European companies present on the island to reiterate the guarantees to foreign investment offered by the Cuban state, at a time of anxiety due to Washington’s new measures of pressure.
Navarro urged Havana “to look for the opportunity to improve the investment climate and to facilitate trade and investment, in these difficult times.”
“I have not seen any country emerge from underdevelopment through development aid and international solidarity…. The countries that thrive are thanks to trade opening and foreign investment…. It is a unique moment, an opportunity,” said the EU ambassador.
In his opinion, “there are sufficient arguments for Cuba to understand that the countries with the greatest trade opening are the most prosperous in the world.”
The EU has been one of the strongest detractors of the new U.S. sanctions against Cuba and opposes the recent activation of Title III of Helms-Burton Act, which allows Americans and Cuban-Americans to file lawsuits in that country’s courts against companies benefitting from properties nationalized after the triumph of the Revolution (1959).
Last May 2 the United States activated that provision that had remained suspended since its approval in 1996 and under which four lawsuits related to the expropriation of energy companies, ports and a hotel have been filed so far.
The representative of Brussels in Havana reiterated the EU’s willingness to protect the interests of its businesspeople and considered that the U.S. legislation violates international law and seeks, ultimately, to “create confusion and discourage investment.”
Navarro recalled that European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica will visit Cuba at the end of June to concretize the EU’s contribution to the creation of a “single window” to facilitate trade and investments on the island.
He also explained that the European bloc continues to work so that the European Investment Bank “can open up to Cuba,” was confident that other financial institutions of the member states would “follow suit” and reiterated the opportunity for the island of joining the future “post-Cotonou” agreement.
The current Cotonou Agreement, which governs the relations between the EU and the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific but which Cuba has not signed, is valid until February 2020 and 78 countries of the ACP group, in addition to the EU member states, have joined it.
The European bloc is Cuba’s main trading partner, with a commercial exchange that exceeded 2.6 billion euros last year, and is also the first investor on the island.
Cuban Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment Antonio Luis Carricarte also spoke at the meeting sponsored by the Cuba. He said that Cuba “appreciates and recognizes the commitment and support” of EU companies in the face of the growing U.S. hostility and its “purpose of isolating” Havana.
Carricarte assured that Cuba will apply all the guarantees provided in its Constitution and its legislation in the face of any lawsuit filed under the Helms-Burton Act, which it called “unlawful, unenforceable and without any legal value or effect.”
For his part, the Cuban Foreign Ministry general director for the United States, Carlos Fernández de Cossío, warned that the judicial rulings issued by U.S. courts in response to lawsuits filed under Title III “will be additional obstacles” if in the future Washington wants to again normalize bilateral relations with the island.