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Cuba – Extraterritorial U.S. sanctions (2 May 2019)

The United States has decided to enforce, as of May 2, Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, which had been suspended since 1998. France regrets this decision and reiterates its longstanding concern over the provisions in question whose extraterritorial scope is in violation of international law, as noted by High Representative Federica Mogherini and European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström.

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France and Cuba

Political relations

Throughout their common history, France and Cuba have forged ties of friendship and cooperation, which have strengthened since 2012 by political meetings at the highest level. The visit to Cuba of President François Hollande in May 2015 and the visit to Paris of President Raul Castro in February 2016 were historic, as no French or Cuban President had made such an official visit before that time.

These visits marked the dawn of a new era in our bilateral relations. This new era has seen, for example, the restructuring of Cuba’s debt to France, the signing of a joint economic roadmap, and an expansion of the scope of the Agence Française de Développement (AFD, French Development Agency) remit in Cuba. The organization of a French culture month in Cuba and the signing of contracts with French companies also demonstrate the beginnings of this closer partnership.


Recent French visits to Cuba:

  • Mr François Hollande, President of the French Republic, 10-12 May 2015, for the first visit of a French Head of State to Cuba. He was accompanied by seven ministers, several members of parliament, many business leaders, and intellectuals.
  • Mr Jean-Pierre Bel, Personal Envoy of the President of the French Republic for Latin America and the Caribbean, 5-7 October 2015.
  • Mr Matthias Fekl, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of Tourism and French Nationals Abroad, for the Havana International Fair, 5-7 November 2015.
  • Mr Alain Vidalies, Minister of State for Transport, Marine Affairs and Fisheries, 29 June-2 July 2016.
  • Mr Matthias Fekl and Mr Jean-Pierre Bel, 24-27 October 2016.
  • Ms Ségolène Royal, Minister of the Environment, Energy and Marine Affairs, responsible for International Climate Relations, and Mr Jean-Pierre Bel, for the funeral of Fidel Castro, 29 November-4 December 2016.

Recent Cuban visits to France:

  • Mr Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz, Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, July 2015.
  • Mr Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz, Vice President of the Council of Ministers, August 2015.
  • Mr Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, First Vice President of the Council of Ministers, 30 November 2015 for the opening of COP21.
  • Mr Ricardo Cabrisas, November and December 2015.
  • President Raul Castro Ruz for a State visit, from 30 January-3 February 2016.
  • Mr Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz, May 2016.
  • Mr Miquel Diaz Canel, September 2017
  • Mr Rodrigo Malmierca, October 2017.
  • Ms Elba Rosa Perez Montoya, Cuba’s Minister of Science, Technology and the Environment, November and December 2017
  • Mr Rodrigo Malmierca, December 2017.

Economic relations

Around 60 French businesses are working in Cuba through partnerships with Cuban entities, representative offices and companies owned by French people living locally.

French Business Confederation (MEDEF) visits are organized regularly (the latest in January 2017). The annual Havana International Fair is an opportunity for French businesses to showcase their expertise. The next fair will be held in November 2018. French exports to Cuba may be guaranteed by BPI (as Coface previously did): an amendment to the Franco-Cuban agreement giving the details of this coverage was signed by Mr Matthias Fekl during the visit of the President of the French Republic to Cuba on 11 May 2015.

Moreover, an agreement on handling Cuba’s debt to France was signed during the state visit of President Raul Castro on 1 February 2016. An office of the AFD in Havana was inaugurated in October 2016 by Mr Matthias Fekl. The AFD will begin by supporting the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) for the consolidation of the livestock and dairy farming industry in Cuba.

The reciprocal state visits were an opportunity to launch a new economic partnership between France and Cuba and its main areas of focus are outlined in a joint economic road map: tourism, energy, infrastructure, health, transport and agrifood.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

A joint statement on resuming bilateral cooperation was signed in Havana on 30 November 2010. The main focuses of this cooperation are as follows:

  • Teaching and spreading the French language, mainly through the two Alliance Française branches in Havana and Santiago, which are the only authorized foreign cultural centres, and are especially popular (11,000 students in the capital). The Cuban authorities have provided France with a magnificent building, the Palacio Gomez, which is the new headquarters of the Alliance Française in Havana. It was inaugurated on 11 May 2015 by the French President.
  • Higher education and research, including the fields of biotechnology, agronomics, the environment, medicine, exact sciences and engineering. A Hubert Curien Partnership was established in January 2017 to promote greater academic and scientific cooperation.
  • Artistic and cultural cooperation, including the annual French film festival, which attracts up to 200,000 people. A “French culture month” is held annually in May.

Other cooperation

Combating drug trafficking is a priority for both France and Cuba. The two countries cooperate in this area, including through a regional cooperation programme supporting the fight against organized crime in the Caribbean (ALCORCA)

Relations with the European Union

On 12 December 2016 in Brussels, the European Union and Cuba signed an agreement on cooperation and political dialogue, which cover all issues of common interest including human rights, fighting corruption, good governance and climate disruption.

Updated: 23 April 2018