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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. Super Dry | D r y g a l s k i w e g 11 | 1210 Wien Hart & Hart Bauträger GmbH Erzherzog - Karl - Straße 5a 1220 Wien M +43 664 88465484 w w w. h a r t - h a r t . a t