In an effort to update bilateral relations, limited between 1996 and 2016 by the so-called Common Position, the European Union re-launched a dialogue at the political level in 2008, complemented by development assistance. On 12 December 2016, the repeal of the Common Position and the signing of the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA) between the two parties gave new impetus to bilateral relations. The PDCA started to apply provisionally on 1 November 2017.

Political Relations

Bilateral and multilateral issues

High-level political dialogue meetings started in 2008, in parallel with the programming of the first EU-Cuba bilateral cooperation strategy. Since then, both sides have discussed bilateral relations, regional issues in Cuba’s and the EU’s neighbourhood, and global issues of mutual interest, such as migration and international terrorism, with a view to identifying potential areas for cooperation. The European Union and Cuba seek to strengthen the United Nations as the core of the multilateral system and to promote the strategic partnership between the European Union and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). The first chapter of the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA) provides for regular high-level political dialogue meetings.

The 27 EU Member States have bilateral diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Trade relations

Investments, exchanges and undertakings

The European Union remains Cuba’s main export and trade partner. It is also the largest foreign investor in the country (mainly in the tourism, construction, light industry and agro-industry sectors) and accounts for one third of the tourists arriving on the island.

Cuba’s main export goods are agricultural products, beverages, tobacco and mineral fuels, for which there is no preferential trade regime.

The main export goods from the EU to Cuba are food, chemicals products, plastics, basic metals and their manufactures, machinery, household appliances and transport equipment.

The PDCA contributes to creating a more predictable and transparent atmosphere for economic operators and increases their economic capacity to produce, trade and create jobs, but it does not establish a free trade area between the parties or cover investment protection.

The EU advocates diversification of exports from Cuba beyond the traditional products and cooperates to disseminate the necessary knowledge among Cuban exporters to improve the access of goods onto the EU market.

European Union-Cuba Development Cooperation

Equity and sustainability

Since 1988, the European Union has funded with around EUR 300 million more than 200 cooperation projects in the country. Some 80 projects worth EUR 155 million are currently ongoing, reflecting an increase of three times the average level of the last decade.

In the first twenty years, the main focus of this cooperation was on emergency projects. The first bilateral cooperation strategy was programmed in 2008, prioritising the sectors of sustainable agriculture and food security, renewable energy and climate change, and the modernisation of the economy, currently in force. The 2021-2027 programme will focus on supporting sustainable municipalities and boosting the national economy, with an emphasis on MIPYMEs and the sectors of agriculture, energy, communication technologies, creative cultures and biotechnology, including cooperation on development and access to vaccines against COVID-19.

In addition to bilateral, regional and thematic programmes, Cuba benefits from its participation in higher education (Erasmus +) and research (Horizon-Europe) programmes.

Humanitarian aid

Emergencies and natural disasters

The Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid has been providing emergency assistance to Cuba since 1993 to support the population affected by natural disasters. Since then, more than EUR 94 million have been granted for humanitarian aid actions on the island. Due to disaster risks and the vulnerability of the population, specific support of over EUR 6 million was provided for disaster preparedness, such as seismic risk reduction, hydro-meteorological early warning systems or resistance to droughts.

Following Hurricane Irma in September 2017, the European Union has provided EUR 1,6 million in humanitarian aid to some 25.000 vulnerable people living in the most affected areas. Immediate response to shelter needs has been prioritised in the target areas. As a complement, support is also provided for water, sanitation and hygiene in key health infrastructure, as well as epidemiological surveillance and rehabilitation of health services in the most deprived communities.

EU-Cuba Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement

A new framework for diplomatic relations

Negotiations for the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA) were launched in April 2014 and concluded on 11 March 2016. After the approval by the Council of the European Union, the PDCA was officially signed on 12 December 2016. In parallel, the agreement was submitted to the EU Member States' national parliaments and to the Cuban National Assembly for ratification. The European Parliament gave its consent on 5 July 2017. Most parts of the agreement start to apply provisionally from 1 November 2017.

The PDCA creates an enabling framework for enhanced political dialogue, for improved bilateral cooperation, as well as for developing joint action in multilateral fora. It defines general principles and objectives for the EU-Cuba relationship and includes three main chapters:

  • Political dialogue, addressing issues such as human rights, small arms and light weapons and disarmament, migration, drugs, counter-terrorism, sustainable development.
  • Dialogue on cooperation and sectoral policy, including areas such as human rights, governance, civil society, social and economic development, environment, regional cooperation.
  • Trade and trade cooperation, dealing with principles of international trade and covering cooperation on customs, trade facilitation, technical norms and standards, sustainable trade and investment.