French President becomes the first Western leader to visit Cuba in over a century
Just hours ago, French President Francois Hollande made history by touching down in Havana and becoming the first leader in the Western world to visit Cuba in more than a century. As part of his tour through the Caribbean, Mr Hollande is scheduled to meet up with Raul Castro and strengthen ties between the two nations, thus cementing France's lead in the EU rapprochement with Cuba after the thawing of relations between the communist island and the U.S.
With the re-establishment of diplomatic ties between Cuba and the U.S. spelling a brighter economic outlook for the island, the recent visit of French President, Francoise Hollande, marks a historic moment in which he became the first high-profile leader of the Western world to set foot in the country in decades, and the first French president to do so in over a hundred years.
Mr Hollande himself said of the much anticipated visit:
" After what Obama’s decision regarding the relationship between Cuba and the US, France along with Europe wants to be by their side during this process. With France, Cuba can have a faithful ally,"
During his time in Cuba the French President is scheduled to meet Cuban President Mr Raul Castro, as well as the head of Cuba's Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Jaime Ortega and the Cuban branch of the Alliance Francaise, which promotes French culture and the French language abroad.
Bringing in a team of five ministers and 24 executives from top French companies including Air France, rum distiller Pernod Ricard (Cuba's partner in exporting Havana Club rum), grain exporter Soufflet and hotelier ACCOR, the visit will help strengthen existing trade links and promote new business between French-based companies and Cuba.
His official visits might include a trip to see Cuba's former President, Fidel Castro, who's already a generally well-regarded and esteemed figure in France and whose ideals can relate to Hollande's Socialist Party.
Despite the world-famous, decades-long feud between the U.S. and Cuba (which now seems to be coming to a very gradual, slow end) France had always maintained friendly relations with Cuba, being one of the largest holders of Cuban debt in fact.
Some of the companies that accompanied Mr Hollander and who are now in the island, already have well-established operations in Cuba and now look to expand their businesses. This is the case for ACCOR and Air France, the largest contributors to the Cuba holidays industry from the French tourism market.
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