Spain says European Union mulling closer ties with Cuba

Spain says European Union mulling closer ties with Cuba
Spain's Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo
MADRID (AP) — Spain's foreign minister says European Union countries may consider upgrading the bloc's trade relations with Cuba, but only if Havana respects human rights.

Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo says EU countries have discussed asking the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, to explore the possibility of reaching an association agreement with Cuba. Association agreements normally pave the way for trade liberalization with countries outside the 28-nation EU.

But Garcia Margallo warned Monday that any association agreement "would have, as a determining factor, respect for human rights."

He told reporters in Brussels that EU foreign ministers are to discuss Cuba at a meeting Feb. 10.

EU figures show the bloc is already Cuba's second-largest trading partner, after Venezuela. A formal association agreement would grant Cuba privileged status and closer relations.