January 20, 2021. Once again we are pleased to greet His Excellency Mr. Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, whom we welcome for being this the first time that he attends the Joint Cuba-EU Council meetings. We likewise appreciate the presence of Minister Arancha and the representatives of member States, who are key actors in the implementation of the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA).
We convey cordial greetings to Her Excellency Mrs. Jutta Urpilainen European Commissioner for International Partnerships, who is also attending our meetings for the first time.
Cuba attaches special significance to the celebration of this Third Joint Council meeting, which is being held amidst particularly complex circumstances, just as Borrell and Arancha have described, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has also affected the development of relations between Cuba and the European Union.
The devastating effects of this pandemic, further aggravated in recent months by the emergence of far more infectious virus strains, are evidencing the urgency of promoting multilateralism and cooperation in the international system in order to be in a better position to face our common challenges. Amidst this difficult situation, the steps taken by both sides to confront the disease and its consequences are encouraging and new opportunities for mutual cooperation in this field have emerged.
In addition to the multi-sectoral impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the government of the United States of America against Cuba, has been brutally tightened in the course of the last two years, with opportunistic measures that have damaged the Cuban peoples access to health under the pandemic condition, thus becoming a real and determining obstacle to Cuba’s development. The blockade is also the main component of the hostile policy implemented by the United States against our country, whose most recent example has been the inclusion of Cuba in the spurious list of State Sponsors of Terrorism issued by the State Department. I would like to appreciate the statements made by the Foreign Service spokesperson in this regard.
Today marks the conclusion of a cycle that began with the in-person celebration of the Second Joint Council meeting in Havana in September of 2019, which makes it possible for us to make an evaluation of the progress that we have achieved in the midst of this complex situation; and project future actions for our mutual benefit based on the respect for the sovereignty of both parties, as established in the Agreement.
We are pleased to note the efforts made to keep the various exchange mechanism established under the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement alive and fulfill the meetings schedule, even despite the adjustments that were introduced as well as the use of alternative channels. But we have to recognize that the thematic dialogues have been successful. Reference was made to one of them but I can say that, to us, all of them have been very important, particularly the one about unilateral coercive measures, which we expect will render fruitful and practical results
In our opinion, this Third Joint Council meeting ratifies the will on both sides to meet the previously agreed commitments; move towards the strengthening of our relations; consolidate the PDCA as a regulatory framework of these relations and strengthen a transparent political dialogue, based on mutual respect, equality and reciprocity.
Finally I would like to express the conviction that our debates will contribute to the consolidation of relations between the European Union, its member States and Cuba, as well as the continuity of a political dialogue that would emphasize on the issues that unite us and that would allow us to respectfully address our differences.
I am most grateful to all for the opportunity to hold this important Joint Council meeting.