Cuba and Spain reestablish communication and political dialogue
Campaign News | Thursday, 5 April 2007
Reciprocal agreement cements new relationship
"COMMUNICATION and political dialogue have been fully established between the two governments, and have reinforced the possibility of greater exchange between the two peoples," affirmed Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque, during a press conference that took place following the signing of agreements between Cuba and Spain, at the headquarters of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MINREX).
He highlighted that the talks between the delegations had developed in a direct manner and reported that he is to respond to an invitation on the part of his counterpart to visit the Iberian nation. "Moratinos has spoken with respect, cordiality and affection, and I have been absolutely reciprocal," he commented.
"Spain will not allow, just as Cuba does not allow, anyone to impose or give advice if that advice has not been asked for," underlined Pérez Roque, who stated that the island has accepted cooperation from the Spanish government that was interrupted during the government of José María Aznar.
"Cuba did not accept, nor does it accept today, the conditions for cooperation that the European Union decided at the time," he commented.
For his part, the Spanish foreign minister thanked the Cuban authorities "for their hospitality, the welcome and their willingness to work together, which made it possible to fulfill the outlined objectives."
Moratinos described his stay here as "intense and fruitful", and said that it permitted him "to see Cuban reality first hand."
Later on he commented that his visit had been significant and necessary with respect to the links that have always united Cuba and Spain, "the reason why we are initiating a new stage."
Prior to signing the agreements, Carlos Lage Dávila, vice president of the Council of State, received the head of the Spanish diplomatic mission. "We appreciate his visit greatly," affirmed Lage, also secretary of the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers.
Moratinos was also received by Parliamentary President Ricardo Alarcón.
Besides this, Moratinos also toured Old Havana and the Latin American School of Medicine from which 3,206 students have graduated, the majority of them from poor backgrounds.
NEW STAGE OF DIALOGUE AND RESPECT
Pérez Roque and Moratinos led official talks in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday to discuss bilateral matters, cooperation and other themes of common interest in the multilateral and international spheres.
The Cuban minister cordially welcomed the distinguished visitor on behalf of the government and people of the island. He said that Moratinos was being received by a little country bound by history and culture to Spain, with which it faces common challenges and shares similar points of view on various issues; a country that is advancing despite being subjected to an ironclad blockade, aggression, and attempts to isolate it, all of which have come up against the people’s sense of national unity.
He noted Moratinos was being welcomed at a time when Cuba is president of the Non-Aligned Movement, and that Cuba supports the Spanish vision of defense of multilateralism and against war and unilateral policies.
Pérez Roque affirmed that the foreign minister’s visit is a clear sign of rectification, of a change in direction, of needed openings, clear evidence of the Spanish government’s genuine interest in dialogue with the Cuban government based on mutual respect and equality. He also noted that we have closed one stage, that we have healed the deep wounds left open as a result of the actions of the former Spanish government; that Spain is once again becoming a privileged interlocutor and that bilateral relations can only advance on the basis of strict reciprocal respect for sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs.
He added that while similar points of view are not shared on all issues, he was confident in their capacity to discuss them with respect.
The Cuban minister qualified current bilateral relations as positive, as opposed to the moment when they were at the point of rupture, and not on account of the island. He said that Foreign Minister Moratinos’ visit has a symbolic value.
For his part, the Spanish minister said that he was grateful for the invitation by the Cuban authorities and his welcome from the moment of his arrival. He noted that the Spanish prime minister had expressed a desire for Moratinos to be accompanied by a delegation comprising representatives of various sectors in order to enrich relations between Cuba and Spain.
He affirmed that his visit is an important point of inflection that prompted him to feel the weight of history and to recover what should never have been lost, the spirit of dialogue between Cuban and Spain.
He also said that he hoped that the visit would open up a new constructive stage which would permit a renewal of confidence, dialogue and mutual respect in approaching the current situation of the two countries with a future vision, as well as the challenges of the 21st century, which reflect the complexity of international relations.
For the head of Spanish diplomacy the new stage of relations with Cuba has three clear components: frank and direct political dialogue, reestablishing cooperation, and the economic and financial dimension.
Both ministers addressed the issue of relations between Cuba and the European Union. Pérez Roque stated that Spain has an irreplaceable role within these relations. He expressed his confidence that the European Union could have its own policy toward Cuba, without being second to anyone else, and could treat the island with the same respect with which Cuba treats the European Union, thus paving the way for a new stage in those relations. He reemphasized that Cuba does not accept the EU common position as a framework for bilateral relations.
The Spanish foreign minister noted that his mission is to transmit to his European colleagues a distinct view, closer to Cuban realities, more objective and more constructive, one that could advance relations with this important 21st century actor.
AT the invitation of Felipe Pérez Roque, minister of foreign affairs of the Republic of Cuba, Miguel Angel Moratinos Cuyaubé, minister of foreign affairs and cooperation for the Kingdom of Spain, paid an official visit to Cuba from April 1 to 3, 2007.
Minister Moratinos carried out a full work schedule, which included a meeting with Raúl Castro Ruz, first vice president of the Council of State of the Republic of Cuba; official talks at the office of Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and interview with representatives of the Cuban state and government.
During these meetings, both parties exchanged viewpoints on diverse issues of bilateral and international interest.
They reaffirmed that the peoples of Cuba and Spain maintain family, social, cultural and economic ties that are the result of a shared secular history and which both parties have expressed they are disposed to preserving and strengthening.
They affirmed that Cuba and Spain participate in forums, like the Ibero-American Community of Nations, that work for understanding and cooperation, something both nations consider to be very valuable and that they also propose to strengthen.
The ministers reaffirmed their total adhesion to the goals and principles contained in the United Nations Charter, particularly sovereign equality, respect for sovereignty and non-intervention in the internal affairs of States, as well as the strengthening of multilateralism, while at the same time reiterating their conviction that international differences should be resolved through dialogue and negotiation.
Both ministers reiterated their opposition to the implementation of extraterritorial laws and measures that contradict international law, such as the Helms-Burton Law, and in that sense, they reaffirmed the special communiqués agreed upon at the Ibero-American Summits of Salamanca and Montevideo in that respect.
They emphasized that both nations believe that at this time, the search for peace, development and the enjoyment of all human rights for all human beings and the preservation of the planet, are priorities in international life.
Both ministers agreed to:
1. Sign an agreement for the establishment of political consultations, including a dialogue on human rights, whose modalities they have defined.
2. Sign a statement via which cooperation is renewed between the two governments, to which effect they will convene the pertinent Joint Commission within the present year.
3. Boost cultural relations and initiate appropriate discussion on the Spanish Cultural Center in Havana.
4. Sign a new Reciprocal Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement, which has been negotiated.
5. Initiate negotiations to find mutually acceptable solutions with respect to the official debt, including the opening of facilities for financing foreign trade.
Both ministers congratulated each other on the outcome of their talks and acknowledged that these took place in a mutually respectful and cordial environment, in line with the historical and cultural ties between Cuba and Spain.
Havana, April 3 2007
For the Republic of Cuba
Felipe Pérez Roque
Minister of Foreign Affairs
For the Kingdom of Spain
Miguel Angel Moratinos
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation
Cuba and Spain agree to relaunch cooperation programmes
New chapter in relations begins
HAVANA, April 3 (Xinhua) -- Spain and Cuba agreed on Tuesday tore-open a Spanish cultural center shut down in 2003 and renegotiate 1 billion dollars in debt owed to the Spanish government
The agreement was signed before Spanish Foreign Minister MiguelAngel Moratinos held talks with acting President Raul Castro and Cabinet Secretary Carlos Lage in Havana's Palace of the Revolution at the end of a two-day visit.
"We have opened a new chapter in our relations, based on respect and dialogue," Moratinos told reporters after signing agreements with Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque.
Moratinos is the most senior EU government official to visit Havana since 2003, in a visit aimed at mending the rift caused by human rights issues in relations between Cuba and the European Union.
During the talks, Moratinos also expressed his satisfaction with the conversations held on the island during his stay.
Meanwhile, the Cuban Foreign Ministry said Moratinos' visit is a positive expression of current bilateral relations characterized by mutual respect and open dialogue.
Cuba has also agreed to accept aid from the Spanish government as long as it has no political conditions, according to Cuban Foreign Minister Perez Roque.
Foreign Minister in Havana seeks new direction on EU-Cuba policy
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Spain is trying to forge a new rapport with the Cuban government while other EU states want to step up pro-democracy work with the island's opposition groups instead.
"It's unthinkable that Spain cannot defend and develop an intense and constructive dialogue with the Cuban authorities," Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said during a rare visit by an EU minister to the island this Monday (2 April), Reuters reports. "We also want a relationship between the European Union and Cuba."
"We are making progress on establishing a permanent and formal mechanism for political dialogue, which doesn't exclude the subject of international cooperation to promote human rights," Cuban foreign minister Perez Roque replied, adding that "Spain...is, today, within the European Union, a privileged negotiator."
The Spanish move comes in the context of poor relations between Brussels and Havana. Under Spanish pressure, the EU in 2005 suspended diplomatic sanctions against Cuba, but Havana today receives less than €1 million a year in humanitarian aid and even less for cultural projects with officially approved NGOs.
The status quo is based on an EU policy paper dating back to 1996 which says that "the objective of the EU in its relations with Cuba is to encourage a process of transition to pluralist democracy and respect for human rights" but despite its tough wording the old EU model has done little to strengthen pro-democracy opposition groups.
The German EU presidency in February drafted a new policy paper on Cuba, sparking a discussion among EU diplomats at a 29 March meeting in Brussels. Strategic parts of the text are to remain secret but the document is also designed to give rise to a public EU political declaration on Cuba in June.
"The new document says little that hasn't been said by the EU before. The wording is very carefully balanced so as not to offend the sensibilities of the [EU] delegations, in terms of what we are trying to achieve," an EU official said.
Spain, supported by Greece and Cyprus, wants Berlin to shelve the new EU paper despite its softly-softly approach. Madrid says any EU policy shift in mid-2007 could damage prospects of a "new era" in Cuba-EU relations, with the opening created by the fragile health of 80-year old leader Fidel Castro and upcoming elections in March 2008.
Spain was a colonial power in Cuba until 1898. It accounts for almost half the EU's €2 billion a year bilateral trade with the island, while Spanish firms, such as Repsol YPF, are currently bidding for access to new oil reserves of up to 5 billion barrels found in Cuban waters last year.
New impetus wanted
But another camp of EU states led by the Czech republic wants a different approach. Prague is keen to insert new "operational" ideas into the German paper that will help the EU prepare the Cuban opposition for a peaceful hand-over of power instead of talking with the likely "official" successors of Fidel Castro's reign.
The pro-civil society group also includes Poland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland and Portugal but would have to get all 27 EU states on board in the consensus-based legal structure of EU foreign policy making.
"We don't want 'tough' language on human rights and Cuba in the new policy paper - we want operational ideas," an EU diplomat from the pro-democracy group said. "The status quo is not an option. Doing nothing implies support for the Cuban authorities," another pro-action EU diplomat said.
The Czech camp's argument was bolstered by a European Commission report on Cuba delivered at the 29 March get-together, with the EU official saying existing EU policy has proved "ineffective" in terms of political reform, opposition groups remain weak and the EU is losing influence to Venezuela and China in shaping Cuba's future.
Italian liberal MEP Marco Cappato, who visited Cuba on 18 March, also advocates greater EU engagement with pro-democracy activists, saying repression has become "worse" since sanctions were suspended in 2005 and expressing concern over future instability on the island if the EU continues on present lines.
"Why should we wait to see what happens? We should influence what happens," Mr Cappato told EUobserver. "The EU's role as an international player will be undermined if we just wait and then, if there is violence around the elections, we express concern or impose an embargo."
Spain in it for the money?
Spanish and Czech diplomats in Brussels are unwilling to speak openly about the simmering disagreement, which is bubbling away at a low diplomatic level in Brussels and is set to see a follow-up meeting on 11 April. But Czech NGOs are happy to say out loud what Prague is thinking in private.
"The visit of the Spanish minister of foreign affairs to Cuba is driven by bilateral economic interests," People in Need analyst Kristina Prunerova said, predicting that Mr Moratinos will not meet any real dissidents on the trip but that Havana will release a handful of political prisoners to help Madrid "sell" its policy back in Brussels.
"The situation is getting worse in Cuba every day. More and more people are being detained, harassed and threatened," Ms Prunerova said. "But with this visit, Spain is giving the sign that the Cuban regime is acceptable as a partner and can be dealt with on a regular basis."
Spanish foreign minister visits Cuba for better relations
Ice-breaking visit by top official
Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos began an ice-breaking visit to Cuba on Monday, becoming the first European Union (EU) foreign minister to visit the Caribbean nation since a dissident dispute in 2003.
Before meeting his counterpart Felipe Perez Roque, Moratinos said his trip marked the beginning of a new phase in bilateral relations and hoped that it would help ease the tense relations between Cuban and the EU.
"Today we start a new phase in which we will express our opinions, which do not always converge but always seek understanding, through firm, open dialogue," Moratinos said in Havana.
"It is absolutely unthinkable for Spain not to maintain, defend and develop an intense, constructive and policy of dialogue with Cuban authorities," he said.
"And we also hope to discuss what the relations between the European Union and Cuba should be, given the international context."
Perez hoped that the EU will have its own policy toward Cuba and said he was confident of improvement in bilateral ties.
Moratinos is expected to meet Defense Minister Raul Castro, who now temporarily holds the reins of Cuba since the veteran leader Fidel Castro underwent an intestinal surgery last July, and other officials on Tuesday.
Relations between Havana and the EU froze up in mid-2003, when the EU applied diplomatic sanctions to the island country in response to its arrest of 75 dissidents and sentencing them to prison terms of six to 28 years.
Among the measures adopted by the EU were the ending of political dialogue, limiting of high-level government visits and reduction of member states' participation in cultural events in the country.
In response, the Cuban government froze diplomatic contacts with Brussels, accusing the EU of yielding to pressure from the United States.
At the request of Spain's Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the EU lifted its diplomatic sanctions against Cuba in January 2005.
Spanish Foreign Minister arrives in Havana
The Spanish Foreign Minister, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, arrived in Cuba in the early hours of today at the start of the first diplomatic visit from Spain since 1998.
It’s also the first visit by any EU Foreign Minister since 2003 when Brussels imposed a series of diplomatic sanctions against La Habana, in response to the so-called ‘Black Spring’ when 75 dissidents where judged and imprisoned.
Moratinos was welcomed at the airport by his Cuban counterpart, Felipe Pérez Roque. The Spanish Secretary of State for Latin America, Trinidad Jiménez, arrived on the island 24 hours earlier.
Tomorrow, on the second and final day of the trip, Moratinos will meet with the recovering Fidel Castro, and he also has meetings planned with the Vice President, Carlos Lage, and the President of the Cuban parliament, Ricardo Alarcón.
Before leaving Spain Moratinos said the visit came at an important time for Cuba and the future of relations between Cuba and Spain. ‘Spain can not be absent from Cuba’, he said.
Spanish Foreign Minister to visit Cuba
Spain’s Foreign Minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, arrives in Havana on Sunday April 1st for an official visit to Cuba.
Top officials of the Spanish ministries of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation will accompany the foreign minister in his trip to the island.
Miguel Angel Moratinos will hold talks with his Cuban counterpart Felipe Perez Roque and carry out a wide program of activities to include meetings with Cuban leaders. He will also tour places of cultural and historical interest.