Cuban Foreign Affairs Minister in First Ever Visit to Slovakia

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Cuban Foreign Affairs Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla. (Photo by AP)

Bratislava, June 20 (TASR) – Slovak-Cuban relations are undergoing a rather positive and dynamic spell, mostly by virtue of political and economic reforms recently taking place in Cuba – including pardons for political prisoners, said Slovak Foreign and European Affairs Minister Miroslav Lajcak after meeting his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla in Bratislava on Tuesday.

This was the first ever official visit by a Cuban foreign affairs minister to the independent Slovakia.

Lajcak pointed out that the EU has also responded positively to Cuban reforms by lifting restrictive measures dating from 1996 and approving a new Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement at the end of 2016, which is currently being ratified by member states and the European Parliament. Slovakia greenlighted the document last week.

The Slovak foreign affairs minister praised cooperation with Cuba in the spheres of energy, education, sport and health care.

“In our case the ties are also demonstrated by the extraordinary high frequency of visits,” said Lajcak. The top Slovak official to visit Cuba was Prime Minister Robert Fico in October 2015.

According to Lajcak, Slovakia has won Cuba’s trust also in energy reconstruction projects, with bids totalling €140 million.

Furthermore, 70 post-grad students are gearing up for exchange visits to Cuba with an eye towards expanding their qualifications. The programme is slated to begin in the autumn, but an extension to up to 100 students is already being entertained, said Lajcak.

Currently, clinical tests are under way in Slovakia for a diabetic foot drug called Heberprot-P, which Lajcak called unique. “This drug is one of a kind in the world. In a way, it represents salvation for diabetics,” he said. “As it stands, the only alternative to it is amputation.”

Lajcak declared that the drug tests are a tangible result of Fico’s visit to Cuba.

Bruno Rodriguez called relations between Slovakia and Cuba “cordial”, with an excellent dialogue at political level. “I’d like to underline our willingness to deepen our ties with Slovakia. Relations with Europe and Slovakia are a big priority for us. We appreciate the role that Slovakia plays in developing ties between Cuba and the EU,” said Rodriguez, adding that the aforementioned Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement was inked during Slovakia’s Council of the EU Presidency in late 2016.

Lajcak assured his Cuban counterpart that the EU won’t change its position on Cuba even after the more stringent measures announced last week by US President Donald Trump.