Foreign Minister Steinmeier visits Cuba for the first time Cuba

17.07.2015 - Article

The process of reform in Cuba and the future of German-Cuban relations are important topics during Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s visit on 16 and 17 July.

The process of reform in Cuba and the future of German-Cuban relations are important topics during Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s visit on 16 and 17 July.

Steinmeier visits the old town area of Havana
Steinmeier visits the old town area of Havana© Thomas Imo/Photothek

His visit was in many respects a trip into “unchartered territory”, said Frank-Walter Steinmeier this Thursday (16 July) shortly after his arrival in Havana. For not only is this his own first visit to Cuba, it is also the first time a German Foreign Minister has ever visited the country.

His visit presented the opportunity to assess “where we’re at after years of estrangement and lack of communication”, said Steinmeier. In recent months, “significant changes have taken place”. The message to his interlocutors in Cuba was that “we’re taking the signs of opening - that the President himself has given - seriously, and we want to make a positive contribution to the process of change.”

Cuba’s opening and rapprochement through dialogue comprised many topics: “Whilst we’re here the issue of human rights cannot be excluded,” said Steinmeier. He went on to say that there would still be differences of opinion with regard to the questions of human rights and the meaning of democracy. Nevertheless he wanted to sound out the possibilities for future cooperation with Cuba.

In‑depth discussions and concrete agreements

Steinmeier with the Archbishop of Havana
Steinmeier with the Archbishop of Havana© Thomas Imo/Photothek

He was “very curious” to see Cuba, said Steinmeier, who went on a tour of the historical old town of Havana before holding a comprehensive discussion with Archbishop Jaime Ortega Alamino.

Late on Thursday morning he then met his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodríguez in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Steinmeier had already met him around a month ago (9 June) for an initial exchange of views in Brussels. Now in the presence of both Foreign Ministers, a joint declaration on cooperation between the two countries’ governments was signed by the German Ambassador, Peter Rudolf Scholz, and the Director General for Bilateral Affairs at the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gerardo Peñalver Portal.

This was a first, there had never been anything like it before, said Steinmeier.

I believe that this is the right time to re‑adjust our relations – the relations between Cuba and Germany. (...) Thus in recent weeks and months we have worked towards the ambitious goal of adopting an agreement during my visit, an agreement which will form the basis of everything that is to come.

Meeting with the Cuban Foreign Minister
Meeting with the Cuban Foreign Minister© Thomas Imo/Photothek

It was a foundation agreement, Steinmeier continued, “with which we have also set up a political mechanism through which we will maintain a regular dialogue over the upcoming months and years.”

This basis would pave the way for further individual agreements. In the second half of the year, work would take place on a cultural agreement, said Steinmeier, as well as on the requisite legal basis for a German business representation in Cuba.

Accompanying the reform process – intensifying cooperation

By being the first German Foreign Minister to visit the country, Foreign Minister Steinmeier wants to help further open “the door between Cuba and the world”. That is why with this visit we are making time for political talks, to make business contacts as well as for discussions with artists, academics and representatives of civil society.

On Thursday afternoon, Steinmeier and his cultural delegation met Culture Minister Julián González Toledo in order to advance cultural exchange. Following this, Finance Minister Marino Murillo Jorge received Steinmeier for a talk on the options for future economic cooperation.

There are numerous possibilities for closer cooperation: fields such as medical technology/medical research, drinking water supply, construction, tourism and logistics will be used as existing platforms upon which German-Cuban relations can be developed.

On Friday (17 July), the German Foreign Minister will visit, among other things, an urban agriculture project as well as an artist studio and will meet participants in a paralympic project.

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