“The Cold War should be finished for good,” Hollande said on Thursday. “I think it’s shame that we waited for so long but it’s a good thing.”
France never broke off diplomatic relations, although no serving French president has ever visited the island since the 1959 revolution.
Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who has since been succeeded by his brother Raul, visited France when Socialist François Mitterrand was president in 1995.
When the news of US President Barack Obama’s announcement broke on Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius said he hoped that the US’s embargo on Cuba would soon be lifted.
The ruling Socialist Party described this “new era” as “good news”, in a statement Thursday, adding that France, with its well-established influence in the Caribbean, would play an important role in Cuba's post-embargo destiny.
Former minister for culture Jack Lang, who was also a special envoy to Cuba under the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy, said Thursday that Hollande should be the first French president to visit Havana.
“When Nicholas Sarkozy appointed me as special envoy to Cuba I advised him to go there, to be the first French president to do so,” he told i-Télé TV. “And since then France and Cuba have had excellent relations both on the cultural and economic level. Sarkozy never did go. But I consider that François Hollande must now go to Cuba. I hope Obama will too and that Raoul Castro will go to Washington.”
Spanish leader Mariano Rajoy also welcomed the US-Cuba détente, adding that he hoped that the Cuban people’s future will be based on democracy and human rights.