The 28 European Union member states moved closer to starting negotiations on a new political and cooperation agreement with Cuba, EU sources told Efe Wednesday.

"There's been an agreement on a mandate for talks," according to one official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The consensus was reached by an EU Council working group, and it will be put before the 28 foreign ministers for their endorsement at a meeting scheduled for Feb. 10, that official said.

The European Union is proposing to launch negotiations on the new accord with Cuba even while maintaining the bloc's so-called "common position" toward the island.

That position, approved in 1996 at the urging of Spain's then-prime minister, conservative Jose Maria Aznar, conditions normalization of diplomatic ties on progress in the areas of democracy and human rights by the Communist-ruled island.

Long bitterly denounced by Havana, the common position could be relaxed if all 28 members states agree, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said earlier this month.

In late 2012, the EU's foreign ministers tasked the bloc's top diplomat, Catherine Ashton, with exploring the possibility of negotiating a bilateral agreement with Cuba.

"There's no longer any country to stand in the way of the accord," one EU source said, adding that there was "a collective will to move ahead and start negotiations." EFE