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, it was officially signed on 12 December 2016. In parallel, the agreement was submitted to the EU Member States’ national parliaments and the Cuban National Assembly for ratification. The European Parliament gave its consent on 5 July 2017. Most parts of the agreement start to be provisionally applied as of 1 November 2017. (here)
The Europeans view this as the marker of a new and more intensely profitable relationship with the Cuban state–though one not without its costs to Cuba. PDCA is the successor policy to the EU’s Common Position which was repealed 12 December 2016 (repeal of the Common Position).
The EU’s Press Release announced the visit this way:
The High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini will travel to Cuba on 3-4 January, reconfirming the strong EU-Cuban relationship. During her visit, she will meet with government representatives, with a view to an ambitious and swift joint implementation of the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA) between the EU and Cuba. Together with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla she will also prepare for the first EU-Cuba Joint Council meeting at ministerial level within the framework of the PDCA.
The Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement entered into provisional application on 1 November 2017. This landmark agreement – the first ever between the EU and Cuba – constitutes the new legal framework for EU-Cuba relations. It foresees an enhanced political dialogue, improved bilateral cooperation and the development of joint action in multilateral fora.
Within the framework of the overall political dialogue, the Parties agree to establish a human rights dialogue, with a view to enhancing practical cooperation between the Parties at both multilateral and bilateral level. The agenda for each dialogue session shall be agreed by the parties, reflect their respective interests and take care to address in a balanced fashion civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights.
The Parties recognise the potential contribution of civil society, including academia, think tanks and media, to the fulfilment of the objectives of this Agreement. They agree to promote actions in support of greater civil-society participation in the formulation and implementation of relevant development and sectoral cooperation activities, including through capacity-building.
Mindful that the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms is the first responsibility of governments, bearing in mind the significance of national and regional particularities and of various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds and acknowledging that it is their duty to protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, the Parties agree to cooperate in the area of democracy and human rights.
The Parties agree to promote and encourage cooperation between institutions, including sector-based institutions, that promote instruments to support SMEs, particularly those whose efforts are aimed at improving competitiveness, technological innovation, integration in value chains, access to credit and training as well as strengthening the institutional capacity and institutional framework. They also agree to promote contacts between companies from both Parties to support their insertion into international markets, investments and technology transfer.
A Joint Council is hereby established. It shall oversee the fulfilment of the objectives of this Agreement and supervise its implementation. It shall meet at ministerial level at regular intervals, not exceeding a period of two years, and extraordinarily whenever circumstances so require, if the Parties so agree. (Art. 81 ¶ 1)
Taken together, the PDCA appears to give both parties what they want most. For the Cubans that is a counterweight to both their friends (the Russians and Chinese) and their frenemies (the Americans). It provides a more solid basis for the fulfillment of key areas of the 2030 Economic Plan through entry into lucrative European markets–but only if the Cubans can deliver. And that may take a bit of financial help from either the Europeans (intimated in the PDCA) or from their friends. Even better, the PDCA might help Cuba avoid the effects of the U.S. embargo–especially those aspects targeting the economic drivers of the Cuban economy that have been targeted by the latest round of U.S. sanctions. For the Europeans it appears to broaden their influence abroad. It also appears to provide a wedge in to reform on two levels. The first is with respect to human rights related reforms on the political level. The second, and much more achievable in part is the opening to human rights and sustainability based business conduct.
But Cuba and the Europeans have been down this road before. It is far too early to determine whether this time there will be greater success over the long term than in the past. Given the potential instability of the beginning of the transition era, it is likely that success will have to target very long term targets.