Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you very much for being here. My colleague, the Cuban Foreign Minister, and I are going to say a few words to you.
I have the pleasure of welcoming Mr Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, the Cuban Foreign Minister, today.
This is our third meeting in a year, but it’s his first official visit to Europe and he decided to begin with France.
We consider this visit to be particularly important and this is why the President wished to have a meeting with my colleague and friend this morning, the Finance Minister too, and just after this meeting and this lunch we had together, the Cuban Foreign Minister will have a meeting with the Prime Minister.
I was the first French foreign minister to go to Cuba in over 30 years, a few months ago now. I had the pleasure and honour of being received by the Cuban President and we both expressed the wish for a strengthening of relations between our two countries. This is the case today. We’re working to strengthen this partnership by developing our dialogue in every sphere on which we’re both very much on the same wavelength and very clear about; if there are difficulties, we talk about them together, but over lunch we were able to review both bilateral and international relations.
We maintain a trustful dialogue with Cuba and share the same concerns on many matters. We are both highly committed to our independence and a desire to take concrete action to find solutions to international challenges.
We cooperate in a whole range of spheres. For example – this isn’t really known despite being very important –, our medical teams in Guinea fighting Ebola are an illustration of this.
Our economic, academic and cultural relations are also developing fast. We attach great importance to this, as the President will recall on his visit to the magnificent new premises of Havana’s Alliance française. Incidentally, I joked to my Cuban colleague that we would have an exponential growth in the number of people learning French. The development of our relations is also a means of forging a closer dialogue with Cuban civil society, and, in general, between Cuba, Europe and France.
PRESIDENT HOLLANDE’S VISIT TO CUBA
Our discussions naturally focused as a matter of priority on the preparation of the historic – I think that, for once, this isn’t a case of the word being a cliché – visit which the President will be paying to Cuba in three weeks’ time. It will in fact be the first visit by a French head of state to that country. The visit falls within a positive context in several respects.
It is part of the strategy initiated by our government, since 2012, to strengthen France’s presence in Latin America and the Caribbean. Cuba is a key country in that area with which we wish to develop a special partnership.
This visit comes at a time when Cuba is on the way to being fully reintegrated into its international environment after the historic meeting between Presidents Castro and Obama. France, which in this respect played a pioneering role which our Cuban friends clearly want to recognize – in particular by urging the dialogue between the EU and Cuba to be resumed –, welcomes this development, which is in keeping with history and is beneficial for all the peoples.
This new context lifts a number of obstacles to the economic, human and cultural exchanges with Cuba. France has continuously opposed the American embargo; it encourages the United States swiftly to lift the embargo. The same goes for Cuba’s removal from America’s list of states supporting terrorism, which is obvious.
PARIS CLIMATE CONFERENCE
Finally, this visit is taking place ahead of the Paris Climate Conference, the famous COP21. I’m convinced – we talked about this – that Cuba, whose influence is acknowledged, can and will play a very positive role to make the Paris conference a success. My colleague Bruno Rodriguez and I have decided to work hand in hand on this./.