Today another Wall has started to fall. President Obama's announcement of important US policy measures towards Cuba heralds a long awaited change in the fraught relations between the Caribbean island nation and its North American neighbour, for which I personally congratulated Secretary of State John Kerry today. The initiative to re-establish diplomatic relations after over half a century of estrangement and the proposals for expanding the possibilities of contact and exchanges between Cubans and Americans are an historical turning point.
The initial reaction of the Cuban Government to these initiatives encourages all of us to be optimistic about a real change and we hope and expect that it will open the path to a full re-launch of US-Cuba relations, in the interest of the Cuban people and their many friends in the United States.
The return of US citizen Alan Gross to the United States is a great step forward. We rejoice with him and his family that after five long and hard years they can celebrate Hannukah together. The release of other prisoners in Cuba as well as of three Cubans imprisoned in the US is also a very positive development. Together, these measures should facilitate further moves to overhaul the relationship between the two countries.
These moves represent a victory of dialogue over confrontation. I thank the wisdom and the great inspiration of His Holiness Pope Francis.
This is also the EU approach. It is in this spirit that earlier this year we opened negotiations on a Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement which would serve as an enabling framework for closer engagement in support of the on-going reform and modernisation process in Cuba. Human rights remain at the heart of EU policy towards Cuba. The EU seeks to expand relations with all parts of Cuban society, promoting economic and social progress, dynamic dialogue and strengthened respect for fundamental rights.