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Roundup: Cuba, EU cooperate on sustainable development amid U.S. pressure

Wed, 17 Apr 2019 13:28 - Updated Wed, 17 Apr 2019 13:28

HAVANA-- Cuba and the European Union (EU) on Tuesday held the first bilateral dialogue on sustainable development amid Washington's threats to implement a law to allow U.S. citizens to sue foreign companies that operate in properties nationalized in the island after 1959.

During the talks, both sides highlighted the progress made by Havana and Brussels on the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda which aims to end poverty in all forms and increase healthcare coverage, education and water access.

"During the talks we ratified that modifying the actual patterns of production and consumption are essential to achieving the goals proposed by the 2030 Agenda," said Rodolfo Reyes, director of Multilateral Affairs at Cuba's Foreign Ministry.

Reyes, who chaired the meeting along with Stefano Manservisi, director-general for International Cooperation and Development at the EU, said the dialogue seeks to strengthen joint social projects to benefit future generations.

Manservisi said programs related to agriculture and renewable energies are already being implemented, facilitating innovation and modernizing Cuba's economy.

Other areas such as food security, inclusive economic development and women's rights were discussed at the meeting, he said.

The talks came after Havana and the 28-nation bloc concluded in 2016 a landmark political and cooperation agreement which came into effect provisionally a year later.

The deal ended a "common position" adopted in 1996 by the EU, which sought to make Havana adopt a Western democratic system to unlock financial aid and promote commerce.

"The joint exchanges or commitments of the UN 2030 plan designed to eliminate social differences and poverty are an important instrument to obtain or transfer experiences for Cuba and the EU amid a tense political situation with the United States," Elsa Claro, a Cuban political analyst, told Xinhua.

Before concluding the meeting, the two sides signed an agreement for Brussels to finance cooperation with over 61 million euros (about 68.94 million U.S. dollars) in areas like food security, climate change, renewable energies, culture and restoration of heritage sites.

Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Rogelio Sierra said after the signing ceremony that this round of talks is the last of five dialogues held between the EU and Cuba on numerous issues.

"We have exchanged about human rights, unilateral measures, illicit traffic of weapons, climate change and sustainable development. We have made progress on different fields and benefit from bilateral cooperation," said Sierra.

The talks came hours before the White House is expected to enact Title III of the Helms-Burton Act which would allow U.S. citizens to establish lawsuits against foreign companies operating in Cuba in properties nationalized or confiscated after 1959.

The EU on Tuesday warned that this move could lead to a World Trade Organization challenge and a cycle of counter-claims in European courts.

Manservisi said to reporters in Havana the EU will fully protect the interests of European companies and businesses in Cuba.

"We have rules that allow European firms to counterattack possible initiatives of U.S. companies or citizens," he said.

Brussels has serious concern about the decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to end the practice of suspending on a rotating six-month basis a section of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act that would allow such suits, mainly from Cuban-Americans.

Every president since Bill Clinton, including Trump, has suspended this section of this law which aims to cut Havana's trade with other nations.

If Title III went into effect, it would likely dash foreign investment that Cuba has been seeking to further develop its economy and lead to years of legal litigation in the United States.

Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department decided to extend until May 1 the waiver for foreign firms.

Trump's move marked an intensification of U.S. pressure on Cuba and also appeared to be aimed at punishing Havana over its support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro who Washington is openly seeking to oust from power,XINHUA.