News / Europe

French Foreign Minister Makes Historic Visit to Cuba

France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (L) talks to Cuba's Minister of Foreign Trade and Commerce Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz (R) after a news conference in Havana, April 12, 2014.
France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (L) talks to Cuba's Minister of Foreign Trade and Commerce Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz (R) after a news conference in Havana, April 12, 2014.
Reuters
France's foreign minister met with Cuban President Raul Castro on Saturday during the first visit to the island by such a high-ranking French official in 31 years and a sign of the quickening pace of improving ties between the European Union and Havana.

Laurent Fabius said he discussed politics, human rights, market-oriented reforms in Cuba and bilateral relations in what he characterized as "a long conversation'' with Castro.

"We want to push forward our relations in the areas of culture, education, economics and politics,'' Fabius, a former prime minister, told reporters at the end of a one-day visit to the communist-run Caribbean country.

"Of course, we have different points of view on certain issues, which doesn't stop us from exchanging perspectives and moving forward,'' he said.

Earlier in the day, Fabius met with his Cuban counterpart, Bruno Rodriguez, various Cabinet ministers, Cardinal Jaime Ortega and French businessmen.

Since Fabius  took office in 2012, he has tried to shift more of France's diplomatic focus toward winning contracts in markets where French firms are traditionally weak, as Paris looks to find growth opportunities overseas.

France is looking to expand its business ties with Latin America and sees Cuba as an important player in the region, given that it hosted a regional summit this year and both Brazil and Mexico are increasing their presence in the country.

"There are many French firms already here, but it's necessary that this presence is strengthened and our Cuban friends agree,'' Fabius said.

Fabius was scheduled to return to France on Saturday evening, having previously visited Mexico.

Bilateral trade last year was $388 million (280 million euros), according to the French government, mainly wheat exports to the communist-run Caribbean island.

Construction and engineering firm Bouygues, beverage maker Pernod-Ricard, the Accor  tourism corporation and energy company Total, all have investments in Cuba and are among 60 French firms operating in the country.

France has also been leading efforts by the Paris Club of creditor nations to resume debt negotiations with Havana, broken off in 2000.

 In February, the EU agreed to begin negotiations with Cuba to increase trade, investment and dialogue on human rights in its most significant diplomatic shift since it lifted sanctions on the country in 2008.

The talks are scheduled to begin April 29 in Havana, according to European diplomats, and they said the French foreign minister's visit would test the waters.

Cuba has been subject to a U.S. embargo for five decades. It is eager to eliminate the EU's ``common position,'' enacted in December 1996, which links human rights and democracy conditions to improved economic relations.

To do so, the two sides will have to reach a new accord that is agreeable to all 28 member states, including Poland and the Czech Republic, which have taken a harder line on Cuba given their own communist pasts.

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid