French President François Hollande’s visit to Cuba has been the first of a western leader in decades. The Elysée Palace – the French presidency – stressed the visit was scheduled well ahead of the recent announcement by US President Barack Obama that the United States seeks to “chart a new course” in relations with Cuba. However it seems that Hollande took Obama’s “historic move” as an opportunity to get on the diplomatic and business train before anybody else, Americans included. Both the French State and public opinion questioned the US embargo on Cuba since it was extended in 1962 and globally denounced it as an injustice. However, only a very tiny portion of the French people could still find any quality in the Castro regime, otherwise largely seen as an “authoritarian regime”. If the Castro aren’t so much liked in France, why, then, did Hollande pay a visit to Raul and Fidel Castro in Havana?
Embarrassed by unfavorable opinion polls at home, Hollande may have chosen foreign and trade policies as the cornerstone of his political comeback in view of the 2017 presidential elections. After the sale of dozens of advanced jet fighters Rafale “Made in France” that just a few people still hoped it could be exported someday, Hollande has included Cuba as one among many destinations abroad for the French products and services within the framework of his foreign minister Laurent Fabius’ “reflex” for economic diplomacy. Summing up, there’s no doubt there are opportunities for French companies in Cuba, however if one takes into account the future and fierce foreign competition especially from the USA and the somehow “beginner” status of the bilateral ties between France and Cuba, aside from tourism, the business figures shouldn’t impress before long. Lately Hollande’s economic diplomacy accelerated significantly and despite the uncertainty of the political benefits at home, it did find real success abroad so far.