Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla was in Berlin on Tuesday (10 May), the first official visit by a Cuban foreign minister since reunification. Frank-Walter Steinmeier received him at the Federal Foreign Office and said after their talks how glad he was of the opportunity to revive cooperation with Cuba after years of stagnation.
Overcoming the vestiges of the Cold War
This was the two foreign ministers’ second historic encounter in ten months. Only last July, Steinmeier became the first foreign minister of the Federal Republic of Germany to visit the Cuban capital, Havana, and now Rodríguez has returned the visit. This revived contact is taking place in the context of the recent thaw dispelling the ice age that beset relations between Cuba and the Unites States for decades. Steinmeier described the US‑Cuban thaw as a “truly historic event” and welcomed it as finally making it possible to overcome the last vestiges of the Cold War.
The revival of bilateral relations between Germany and Cuba is already taking shape. A basic agreement has set out the framework for political consultations. In it, the two countries agree to open an office of German business in the Cuban capital. An agreement on cultural affairs is intended to pave the way for German cultural organisations to operate in Cuba. After the talks, Foreign Minister Steinmeier expressed his confidence that the relevant agreements could be signed “before the year is out”.
Dialogue that does not eschew difficult topics
Steinmeier said he was glad of the opportunity to take forward cooperation as partners. Part of Germany’s aim, he explained, was to support Cuba’s path towards greater openness, as political, economic and cultural interest in Cuba was high and on the increase here. The dialogue does not eschew topics where views differ, such as citizens’ political rights. Germany is also involved in this through the political dialogue between the European Union and the Cuban Government. Foreign Minister Rodríguez described the way those talks were going as positive and constructive.
Cuba’s foreign minister sees great potential for bilateral relations, not least in terms of developing economic ties between the two countries. Cuba, he said, was currently pursuing very long‑term development goals looking towards the year 2030. Though small, his country had several very interesting competitive advantages to offer, Rodríguez went on. He reported noticing mutual interest in closer cooperation in dealings both with Germany and with the European Union.
Hope for peace in Colombia
Alongside bilateral issues, the situation in Latin America was also on the agenda. As Steinmeier put it afterwards, Cuba played an important role in the region. He gave the example of Cuba’s mediation in the Colombian peace process. The Colombian Government and the FARC guerillas are close to concluding a peace treaty which could put an end to decades of civil war. Steinmeier said he was very hopeful that it could be concluded before the end of the year, saying this would be an important contribution to Colombia’s peaceful future and an example to the entire region.