World / Europe

Hollande's visit to Cuba seeks greater French role

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-05-12 15:16

HAVANA - French President Francois Hollande made a historic visit to Cuba on Monday, during which he sought to bolster relations with the island country by strengthening political and economic connections.

Hollande's trip, the first ever by a French leader and also the first by a Western European head of state to the country in more than 55 years, highlighted France's willingness to enlarge its role in Cuba's engagement with the West.

Hollande said he was very moved to be the first French president to visit Havana and that his country was pleased "to participate in the opening of Cuba to the world," Cuban state daily Granma reported.

The French president said his visit came "at a particularly important but also uncertain time," as the United States seeks to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba and European countries scramble to reinforce ties.

In December 2014, the US-Cuba thaw was announced and the European Union (EU) also opened talks on restoring ties with the country.

France has joined the Netherlands and Spain in leading an EU push to normalize relations with Cuba. However, bilateral trade only amounted to $200 million in 2014, lower than the 2013 figure, and far below the economic relations the island maintains with other European partners.

Therefore, according to Hollande, the visit is aimed at increasing bilateral ties.

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