The Government fully supports the EU-Cuba Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement, PDCA, which was signed by each EU member state and the Cuban Minister for Foreign Affairs in the margins of the Foreign Affairs Council in December 2016. This is the first bilateral agreement between the EU and Cuba. Its signature marked a further positive step forward in relations between Cuba and the EU, which have improved considerably in recent years.
The agreement is robust and comprehensive, consisting of three main pillars, namely, political dialogue, co-operation and sectoral policy dialogue, and trade and trade co-operation. The core aim of the PDCA is to open channels of dialogue and co-operation between the EU and Cuba to assist the modernisation of the Cuban economy and society, strengthen human rights and democracy and work together to achieve the sustainable development goals.
In July 2017, the European Parliament voted to endorse the EU-Cuba Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement. While most of the agreement has been provisionally applied since November 2017, its full application will require ratification by the EU once member states have completed their internal legal procedures. As matters stand, nine member states have done so and the remaining member states, including Ireland, have yet to complete their internal procedures. I look forward to working with colleagues in the Oireachtas to complete Ireland's internal legal procedures and preparations are under way towards this objective.
The entry into force of the EU-Cuba Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement and improvements in the EU-Cuba relationship will, in turn, have helpful consequences for the Ireland-Cuba relationship. Ireland has a positive relationship with Cuba, which was further cemented by the successful visit of President Higgins to the island in February 2017, during which a memorandum of co-operation between the Government of the Republic of Cuba and the Government of Ireland was signed.
My assessment is that the PDCA provides a solid framework and welcome opportunity to strengthen both EU-Cuba and Ireland-Cuba relations. I look forward to continued positive developments in the period ahead, including the completion by Ireland of the internal legal procedures necessary for EU ratification.