PARIS — French President François Hollande will tour the Caribbean region from Friday to Tuesday (May 8-12), including a visit to Havana on Monday (May 11) that is intended to “give new impetus to the bilateral relations between France and Cuba,” said the Elysée Palace on Thursday (May 7).
The French president’s trip to Cuba “will be an opportunity to affirm the priority areas for the consolidation of relations between the two countries,” explains the press release issued by the presidential palace, noting that it will be “the first visit of a French head of state since [Cuba’s] independence in 1898.”
According to the Presidency, the priority areas for the consolidation of relations between France and Cuba are a political dialogue on regional and international issues of common interest, academic and scientific cooperation, economic cooperation and cooperation in the cultural field and linguistics.
In order to develop academic and scientific cooperation, Hollande will visit the University of Havana where he will meet with professors and students, said the Elysée.
He will be accompanied on this occasion “by representatives of French universities and research organizations that wish to develop their exchanges with Cuba.”
[The French newspaper Le Monde reports that Hollande will award Cardinal Jaime Ortega the Legion of Honor for his role in the release of political prisoners in 2010.]
In the area of economic cooperation, the French head of state will participate Monday morning in an economic forum hosted by several ministers on a number of key sectors: tourism, health and biotechnology, transportation and logistics, as well as energy, the press kit said.
In terms of cooperation in the cultural and linguistic field, the French President will attend the inauguration of the new headquarters of the French Alliance in Havana.
Finally, after meeting the French community and laying a wreath at the José Martí Memorial, François Hollande will be “the guest of President Raúl Castro Ruz at the Palace of the Revolution for a restricted meeting, which will be followed by a formal dinner,” according to the official program.
Throughout their shared history, France and Cuba have developed “relations of friendship and cooperation that have been relaunched in recent months by political meetings at a high level,” said the website of the French Foreign Ministry.
In November 2010, the two countries signed a joint declaration on the resumption of bilateral cooperation.
President Hollande will be accompanied on his visit to Havana by the president of the National Assembly, five ministers (Ecology, Justice, Health, Culture and Overseas), two Secretaries of State (Development and Francophony, Foreign Trade), several parliamentarians and politicians, scientific, academic, cultural and sports personalities, and numerous business leaders.
(Photo at top shows President François Hollande arriving at the Economic, Social and Environmental Council in Paris on Wednesday, May 6, to address a forum on youth issues.)