(dpa) - The European Union on Tuesday called for a "constructive dialogue" with Cuba as part of its long-standing drive to promote democracy in the Caribbean state.
Officials in Brussels said the EU executive, the commission, had "taken note" of Fidel Castro's announcement that he was stepping down as Cuba's leader.
And they confirmed a March 6-7 visit to the island by Louis Michel, the EU's development and humanitarian aid commissioner.
"We take note of Cuban leader Fidel Castro's announcement not to accept another term as president. We reiterate our willingness to engage with Cuba in a constructive political dialogue," said Michel's spokesman, John Clancy.
Clancy said the EU would be seeking dialogue "with all stakeholders, including the authorities and civil societies."
But he could not confirm whether Michel would be meeting Castro during his stay in Cuba.
"The preparations for the agenda of Michel's visit are still ongoing," the spokesman said.
The EU has held a common position on Cuba since 1996.
This calls for the 27-member bloc to encourage "a peaceful process of transition to a pluralist democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as sustainable recovery and improvement in the living standards of the Cuban people."