EU to vote on Cuba sanctions

Campaign News | Sunday, 15 June 2008

On Monday 16 June, the European Union will vote on whether to remove sanctions against Cuba. According to Spain’s El Pais newspaper, the preparatory debate has demonstrated that a clear majority of the twenty-six member countries favour a change of approach.

Campaigners have intensified pressure on the UK government to normalise its relations with Cuba in recent weeks. More than 120 MPs have signed Early Day Motion 1405 calling for an end to sanctions, and 20 trade union General Secretaries signed an open letter to the Foreign Secretary David Milliband calling for a break with US policies and better relations with Cuba.

In Europe, Sweden and the Czech Republic oppose the complete elimination of the sanctions. The Czech Republic has echoed the Bush administration's claim that changes in Cuba are "cosmetic" and wants the EU to take a "dual-track" approach under which high-ranking delegations would be obliged to raise human rights and democracy concerns during any visits and to meet opposition groups.

In a recent summit between the European Union and Latin America, Brazil, Mexico and other Latin American countries informally expressed their opposition to the sanctions. Speaking with high level European diplomats they argued that the EU should

"accompany the process of change" in Cuba.

According to a report by the Reuters news agency, the discussions come just after President Bush told leaders at the EU-U.S. summit that they should not remove the sanctions.

In May, Caleb McCarry, the so-called Cuba Transition Coordinator, visited several European countries, including the UK to urge them not to end the sanctions. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez made a similar trip last week.

Many of the EU diplomats hinted that they would make decisions based on what's best for the EU. "Sanctions could possibly be lifted... but linked with dialogue, with a review. We are working on finding the exact formula," said one EU diplomat.

CSC Director Rob Miller said: “The Cuba Solidarity Campaign, its members, supporters, MPs and the British trade union movement have worked hard over the last two years to pressure the government to change its position on Cuba. We are hopeful that these sustained and collective efforts will influence the UK’s vote on Monday, despite aggressive lobbying by the Bush administration."

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