14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 25 May 2023 — Josep Borrell’s first public event in Havana has been a meeting with Cuban entrepreneurs at the Estudio 50, on Lugareño Street. The representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs began a three-day visit to the Island on Thursday, focused on strengthening bilateral economic and political ties.
“I want to greet the men and women of Cuba who have the courage and the ability to take action,” said Borrell, who gave a speech before the representatives of the MSMEs (micro, small and medium-sized enterprises) with “three messages”: the role of medium and small enterprises in the economy of a nation, “the process of opening and modernization of the Cuban economy” and the importance of the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (ADPC) between the EU and Cuba.
Borrell predicted that the Island could become “the Mallorca of the Caribbean” and cataloged entrepreneurs as “the yeast” to grow the Cuban economy. The MSMEs “are a manifestation of a model of society, a model of society based on freedom,” he said.
The diplomat, who acknowledged the serious economic crisis that the Island is going through, stressed that the EU seeks to support private micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, legal in Cuba since September 2021.
Borrell assured that the EU wants to “accompany the opening process” and “economic and social reforms” in Cuba, “from mutual respect” and with the aim of contributing to the “improvement of the lives of all Cubans.”
In this sense, Borrell cited a community fund endowed with 14 million euros (about 15 million dollars) to “help (Cuban) entrepreneurs to be better entrepreneurs,” with training and advice. He also pointed out the EU’s willingness to cooperate with the Cuban institutions to boost the economy, from the regulatory framework to financing.
This public event has been known only from the agenda of the representative of the EU in Havana this Thursday, although by tomorrow, Friday, he is expected to participate in the meetings of the joint EU-Cuba council — which meets periodically, according to the ADPC — and to hold a meeting with the Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodríguez.
So far, no meeting has been announced with independent civil society organizations or relatives of political prisoners, although activists from the Cuban Center for Human Rights have released a list of 14 political prisoners who are on hunger strikes in the prisons of the Island, some of them arrested and prosecuted for participating in the popular protests of July 11, 2021.
Several NGOs, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, asked Borrell this week that human rights remain a priority in the EU’s policy towards Cuba.
Also an important issue is the support — exclusively political — of Havana to Moscow in its invasion of Ukraine and the attempts of these two countries to strengthen their economic ties despite the sanctions that weigh on their economies.
Cuba is also important for the European bloc because this year it occupies the temporary presidency of the Group of 77 and China (G77+China), the largest intergovernmental mechanism in the world, in which more than 130 developing countries cooperate.
Translated by Regina Anavy
COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.