CERCLE DIPLOMATIQUE - issue 01/2016

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CD is an independent and impartial magazine and is the medium of communication between foreign representatives of international and UN-organisations based in Vienna and the Austrian political classes, business, culture and tourism. CD features up-to-date information about and for the diplomatic corps, international organisations, society, politics, business, tourism, fashion and culture. Furthermore CD introduces the new ambassadors in Austria and informs about designations, awards and top-events. Interviews with leading personalities, country reports from all over the world and the presentation of Austria as a host country complement the wide range oft he magazine.

LE MONDE CUBA

A Cuba out of a travel

catalogue – beaches to

dream of, clean rivers

like the El-Nicho to

jump in.

FACTS &

FIGURES

Parque Central in

Havana.

Cathedral of

Santiago de Cuba.

Cuba & Austria

History. 2016 marks the 70 year anniversary of

diplomatic relations between Cuba and Austria,

having officially started on July 26, 1946.

Nevertheless, historic ties date back as early as

1803, when a certain Johann Nepomuk von Götz, a

monk of the Jesuit order and a professor of

Philosophy and Morals at the University of Vienna,

visited Havana and laid a path for more Austrians to

follow. In 1841, the famous Viennese dancer Fanny

Elssler cheered the crowds at the theatre stages in

Havana. Two times, in 1888 and 1892, the Austrian

chess world champion Wilhelm Steinitz successfully

defended his title in Havana chess clubs. And there

goes the Cuban legend of three Austrians, known as

Stewart Jamey, John Taks and Maximilian Jatscha,

having fought bravely on Cuba‘s side in the war of

independence from Spain in the 19th century. Vice

versa some Cuban folks found their way to Austria

as well. In 1894, the Cuban scientist Carlos J. Finlay

attended a Vienna congress on hygienics and

demography, where he presented his discovery of

the cause for transmission of ”Yellow Fever“ (also

known as ”American Plague“), which is a bite of an

Aedes aegypti mosquito. Also, two well-known

Cuban medical doctors, Arturo Aballi and Braulio

Saenz, have started their scientific research in

Vienna around 1900.

Ihr erfahrener

Partner für

Bauen, Wohnen

und Investitionen!

/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

Hart & Hart baut

auf höchstem N i v e a u.

book of bilateral relations last year – with a big step

towards normalisation through a brand new deal in

February allowing 20 flights each day from the US to

Havana – Cuba is moving more and more into the

focus of international investors, dealmakers, tourism

managers and real-estate sharks. ”Cuba for sale“, a

recent ”Guardian“-story read. ”Havana is now the big

cake – and everyone is trying to get a slice.“

The economy of Cuba is already capitalising on

this mounting hope of doing business with a people

af some 11 million. Its GDP last year has been growing

by more than 4 percent, up to some 89,5 billion

dollars, and the same rate is predicted for 2016. Foreign

direct investments already had seen a growth

rate of 7.2 percent in 2014, which jumped up to 21.5

in 2015. And the island is experiencing an unmatched

wave of more than 3 million international tourists

(2015). Says Friedrich Steinecker, the Austrian

Commercial Counsellor for Cuba: ”Many of them

want to see the country as it once has been.“

One of the big issues on the country‘s path to liberalisation

is the speed of change. As Juan Antonio

Fernández Palacios, the Ambassador of the Republic

of Cuba to Austria, puts it: ”We have to improve our

economy, but at the same time must keep the values

of our society“ (see also interview page 44). Therefore

the politics of President Raúl Castro are best summed

up in his slogan „Sin prisa, sin pausa“ – without

haste, without disruption. ”Cuba wants to make sure

an economic transformation which is soft and does

not lead to severe social upheaval“, says Steinecker.

Since 2011, Castro has introduced some 300 reform

legislatures aiming to allow the private sector,

which nevertheless remains under pretty harsh state

control, more room for business activities. And in

order to attract foreign investors is also waving with

some surprising new tax incentives – such as a taxcut

on joint-venture profits from 30 to 15 percent, a

tax-free period of 8 years for certain new investments

and the reduction of a range of maximum tax

rates. In the meantime, the establishment of companies

with total foreign ownership in some sectors of

the economy became legal as well. Cuba wants to

channel them into over 300 big industrial infrastruc-

PHOTOS: COURTESY OF THE EMBASSY OF THE REPUBLIC OF CUBA, RALPH MANFREDA (1)

ture projects, ranging from renewable energy to mining

and construction, of which the Mariel Special

Development Zone, a huge harbour area financed by

Brasil, seems to be the most promising one.

”This country is about to kick-start“, says Christoph

Matzeneder, the Vice President of the Austrian

Chamber of Commerce, who was already exploring

business opportunities as head of a commercial delegation

in early December 2015. As of now, Austrian

companies unfortunately have not taken much advantage

of this new flow of economic energy. Exports

account for a mere 12.6 million Euros and there are

only two Austrian companies active in Cuba. One is

the Viennese Salm Bräu, which already built three

breweries on the island, the other is Trodat-Trodec,

the maker of technologically advanced rubber

stamps. But according to them, Matzeneder‘s perception

seems to be accurate: ”Cuba is like a young

tiger just bursting its chains.“ By the way: these have

been nearly exactly the same words a certain Mick

Jagger said when he inked a contract for the first concert

of the Rolling Stones in Havana this March.

Trade. According to the Austrian Chamber of

Commerce trade relations between Cuba and

Austria are somehow humble, consisting mainly of

machinery, plastics and office supply. In 2015,

Austrian exports to Cuba hit a record of some 12.6

million Euros, while imports from Cuba – most of

them fruits, fruit juices, honey, rum and tobacco

products – fell significantly last year from the 2014

figure of 3.8 million Euros.

Piazza Cagrana |

Kagraner Platz 31 | 1220 Wien

Langobardissimo |

Langobardenstraße 1 | 1220 Wien

Especially in Havana,

signs of Cuba‘s patriotism

and revolutionary

pride everywhere.

42 Cercle Diplomatique 1/2016

The Cuban flag

waving over the

Presidential Palace.

Juan Antonio Fernández Palacios, Cuba‘s

Ambassador to Austria, urges Austrian companies

to push harder in doing business with his country.

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