Kingston, Jamaica, 31 January 2015/ ACP: I welcome the initiative of the Obama Administration to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba, which is one of the Member States of the ACP Group.

I am encouraged by the Statement of Federica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative, who in welcoming this sign of thawing relations between Cuba and the US, stated that “President Obama's announcement of important US policy measures towards Cuba heralds a long awaited change in the fraught relations between the Caribbean island nation and its North American neighbour… The initiative to re-establish diplomatic relations after over half a century of estrangement and the proposals for expanding the possibilities of contact and exchanges between Cubans and Americans are an historical turning point” she further stated that the “these moves represent a victory of dialogue over confrontation” and that “this is also the EU approach”.

The global community of nations is inextricably linked, be it by geography, trade and economic relations, language and culture, and history, among others. Diplomatic relations facilitate communication and dialogue and ultimately promote understanding, ease and diffuse tensions and are therefore critical for peace building and the prevention of conflict.

Despite the trade, economic and financial difficulties that Cuba has experienced due to the US Embargo, it has in the spirit of South-South cooperation played an exemplary and unmatched role in providing technical and economic assistance to other countries of the South since the 1960s, with almost 300,000 Cuban nationals playing critical roles in supporting health, agriculture, sport and education programmes in other countries across the world, many of them poor, small, landlocked or island ACP States. Indeed its interventions in the health sectors of various countries is one of the most remarkable in the world, and has been critical in complementing other forms of multilateral and bilateral support, including that of the EU and its Member States, a fact long acknowledged by the WHO. During the current Ebola crisis Cuba has sent one of the largest contingents of medical personnel to the affected countries in West Africa.

I am gratified to note that the EU has been taking steps to normalise relations with Cuba, and I can only encourage the intensification of efforts of dialogue towards full cooperation. At 20%, the EU is the second biggest source of Cuban imports. 21% of the country’s exports go to the EU, and about a third of all tourists come from the EU.

The ACP Group has always been of the view that continued isolation of Cuba is not in the interest of the Cuban people themselves or indeed of the international community in general. The ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, which has among its roles the promotion of democratic processes through dialogue and consultation, as well as facilitation of greater understanding between the peoples of the European Union and those of the ACP States and raise public awareness of development issues, needs to lend its voice in support of the initiative of the Obama Administration and the steps that the EU is already undertaking in this regard. To this end, I will be writing to Mr. Colleague Mr. Louis Michel, Co-President of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly to encourage EP Members of the Assembly to join us in supporting these commendable moves for better engagement with Cuba.

For more information, please contact ACP Parliamentary Expert, Mr. Lawrence Chilimboyi, +32 2 7430600 or; or Press Officer, Ms. Josephine Latu-Sanft, +32 2 7430617 or