HAVANA, June 21 (Xinhua) -- The European Union (EU) on Friday pledged to continue expanding economic cooperation with Cuba amid stepped-up U.S. trade sanctions against the island.
The EU will "continue to support Cuba's commitment to having a favorable investment environment for European businesses and to explore joint initiatives in high-profile sectors for the country's economy," Neven Mimica, European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, told reporters in Havana.
Mimica, senior Cuban officials and more than 100 business owners participated Friday in the first Cuba Business Forum, an initiative that seeks to bring greater foreign capital to the Caribbean nation and to offer certainty to current and future investors.
The high-ranking EU official was here on a three-day official visit to review how bilateral cooperation supported Cuba's sustainable development and particularly its economic modernization.
Mimica announced an additional 4 million euros to establish a Unique Foreign Investment Window to facilitate new ventures and commerce in Cuba.
"Our cooperation with Cuba has surpassed 100 million euros this year and we have engaged in bilateral talks in different sectors such as agriculture, renewable energy, economic modernization and climate change," the envoy said.
Mimica reiterated the EU's condemnation of the half-century U.S. trade embargo against Cuba as well as recent trade and travel restrictions imposed by the U.S. administration.
The bloc strongly condemned the unilateral extraterritorial measures imposed by Washington in violation of international law, and is concerned about the negative impact that recent restrictions might have on the Cuban economy, said Mimica.
In May the U.S. State Department enacted Title III of the Helms-Burton Act against Cuba, allowing U.S. citizens to sue Cuba on nationalized or expropriated properties after 1959. The move put companies operating on properties confiscated by the Cuban government at risk of lawsuits.
The EU's position is "firm" in rejecting the move. Its 28 member states have "antidote laws" in case a U.S. court imposes fines, said the official.
Trade between the bloc and Havana reached 2.6 billion U.S. dollars last year. The EU is also Cuba's leading foreign investor, with projects in such key sectors as infrastructure, renewable energy, transport, food and agriculture.
Over 35 percent of the island's trade is with EU nations, mainly Spain, France and Italy, according to Cuba's official figures.