Cuba and the European Union (EU) launched a fifth round of talks in Havana Wednesday on normalizing ties, paving the way for unrestricted trade and political cooperation.
Prior to the start of the talks, EU delegation leader Christian Leffler, managing director for the Americas at the European External Action Service, expressed optimism about the two sides making progress towards an accord that will help expand cooperation between Europe and Cuba, after years of limited interchange.
Abelardo Moreno, Cuba's deputy minister of foreign affairs and head of the Cuban delegation, said the negotiating teams will work eagerly to reach an agreement satisfactory to both sides.
Sources close to the talks said the two parties are about to wrap up the sections related to trade and cooperation, but have yet to reach a consensus in the political arena.
European countries, which for years adopted the United States' policy of isolating the socialist island, have decided to change with the economic reforms launched by Cuban leader Raul Castro.
In 1996, the EU adopted the so-called Common Position, which restricted dealings with Cuba, citing lack of democracy and human rights violations. The policy was promoted by then president of Spain Jose Maria Aznar (1996-2004).
Cuba is the only Latin American country with no bilateral agreement with the European bloc, though in recent years it has signed individual accords with over half of EU members.
The European bloc is Cuba's second-largest trade partner, and is a leading foreign investor in the island, mainly in the tourism sector.