Exclusive: In diplomatic shift, Europe seeks improved ties with Cuba

European flags are hung outside the European Commission headquarters in BrusselsBy Robin Emmott and Fiona Ortiz BRUSSELS/MADRID (Reuters) – The European Union will agree next month to deepen relations with Cuba in its most significant overture to the communist nation since diplomatic sanctions were lifted in 2008, people close to the matter told Reuters. Foreign ministers from the EU’s 28 countries will give the go-ahead on February 10 to launch talks with Havana on a special cooperation accord to increase trade, investment and dialogue on human rights. “Cuba wants capital, and the European Union wants influence,” said one person involved in the talks who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue. “This cooperation could serve as a prelude to much more.” Two other people with knowledge of the negotiations told Reuters that a consensus had been reached in Brussels to give momentum to the market-oriented reforms introduced under Cuban President Raul Castro and to position European companies for any transition to a more capitalist economy in the longer term.