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LE MONDE CUBA | INTERVIEW H.E. Juan Antonio Fernández Palacios “Keeping the values of our society.“ Interview: Rainer Himmelfreundpointner The Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba to Austria explains his country´s strategy to improve its economic development while at the same time preserving the achievements of the Cuban revolution. CD: Your Excellency, during your rather new Ambassadorship to Austria, what are your impressions of the country so far? Palacios: I actually began my duties in November 2015, after having presented my credentials to Federal President Heinz Fischer. I have only been once in Vienna before, nearly 25 years ago, during the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993, on which occasion I barely had time to sightsee the city. But now I have discovered a beautiful country with friendly, hardworking people. Vienna is where I have found also a lot of affection and love for Cuba. According to official figures total trade between the Cuba and Austria is nearly invisible, only some 6.6 million Euros of Austrian exports to Cuba and some 3.8 million Euros of imports from Cuba. Where would you highlight the most promising areas to improve economic ties between Cuba and Austria? Our trade is really insignificant, Austrian businesses should be far more aggressive entering our market. There is a great potential for further increasing our bilateral trade and economic relations. Cuba has achieved a high development in the biotechnology industry and there is a wide export offer which includes Heberprot P for diabetic foot ulcer treatment. Agricultural and food industry production are also prioritised sectors along with tourism, as well as health, the development of energy sources, especially renewable energy, the exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons, mining resources and construction or improvement of industrial infrastructures. Cuba obtains more than 95 percent of electricity from fossil fuels and it is working to change the country’s energy matrix by taking advantage of renewable energy sources, using solar and wind as well as power from agro industrial waste such as sugar cane, forestry, and scrub (marabou) biomass, generation of water and biogas power. We know all the possibilities that we can find in Austria in this regard. Are there any additional significant future projects in the pipeline? We have a diverse portfolio of foreign investment possibilities, which contains 326 projects in 12 sectors, the majority with pre-feasibility or feasibility studies completed. This certainly opens up the opportunity to develop trade and economic relation ties. Foreign investment in Cuba, as part of the updating of the Cuban economic model, is aimed at the diversification and expansion of export markets, the access to advanced technologies, the replacement of imports, the obtainment of foreign financing, the creation of new sources of employment, the attraction of new managerial methods and their connection with the development of productive chains, and the change of the country’s energy matrix with renewable sources of energy. There also exist a lot of opportunities in the Mariel Special Development Zone, a project directed to encourage the nation’s sustainable economic development by attracting foreign investment, technological innovation and industrial concentration while at the same time ensuring environmental protection. It covers an area of 465.4 square kilometers, 45 km west of Havana. The Special Economic Development Zone of Mariel will be a touchstone for technological development in the region, a way to interest foreign capital and a place which will provide permanently connection to the Cuban economy for the growth of cutting-edge manufacturing and services. Are there any Austrian companies already investing in Cuba? Up to date, there is no Austrian investment in Cuba, but there is a great potential for increasing trade and economic relations and to promote foreign investment in Cuba. Tax incentives are not the only advantages for foreign investors to choose Cuba as a place to invest. With the approval of Law No. 118 and its complementary norms, a favorable business environment has been created in Cuba. And do not forget the international agreements signed by Cuba with the Latin American Integration Association, the Caribbean Community, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, the Common Market of the South, the European Union and the World Trade Organisation, which all support a governmental policy that prioritises research and technological innovation. In regard to to the end of the US blockade against Cuba how would you outline the major prospects resulting out of this political change? Preserve the achievements made by the Cuban Revolution and advance in the construction of a socialist, prosperous, sustainable society where justice and social equity prevails. If I had three wishes for the future of my country, they would be the improvement of the economy, keeping peace and values of our society and remaining cheerful and enterprising to face all the difficulties from which no one escapes in this world. AD PERSONAM JUAN ANTONIO FERNÁNDEZ PALACIOS Born 1963 in Havanna, the Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba to Austria took his post in November 2015. Prior to this he served as Cuba‘s representative to the UN Offices in Geneva and to the UNESCO. PHOTOS: RALPH MANFREDA NEU AB OKTOBER Havanna SALSA SENSATION myAustrian fliegt mich mit herzlichem Service nonstop ins karibische Kuba. Denn nichts lässt das Herz höher schlagen, als der Rhythmus kubanischer Lebensfreude. the charming way to fly 44