The European Union and Cuba signed an agreement Friday to normalize ties, in a deal that could clear the way for trade and political dialogue between the 28-member bloc and the Caribbean nation after more than a decade.
The EU suspended relations with Cuba in 2003 following a crackdown on anti-government activists by the Cuban government in which 75 dissidents, including 29 journalists, were imprisoned.
On Friday, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini met with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla and finalized a deal that officials have negotiated for the past two years to improve relations.
“This accord opens a new chapter in the history of relations between the European Union and Cuba," Mogherini reportedly said, shortly after EU negotiator Christian Leffler and Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Abelardo Moreno signed the deal.
For over two decades, EU-Cuba ties have been strained over issues like human rights and restrictions on political parties in Cuba.
The agreement established political dialogue and set measures to reinitiate commerce and aid. However, Mogherini said Friday that the EU would continue to press Cuba on human rights and political inclusion.
The deal must now be ratified by the 28 EU member-states.
The restoration of diplomatic ties comes amid improving relations between the United States and Cuba with U.S. President Barack Obama scheduled to visit Havana on a three-day trip starting March 20 — the first time a sitting American president will set foot in Cuba in nearly 90 years.
Last month, the U.S. and Cuba signed a deal restoring commercial flights for the first time in five decades.