CSC statement on lifting of EU sanctions

Campaign News | Friday, 27 June 2008

The European Union sanctions against Cuba (in place since 2003) were formally lifted on Monday 23 June 2008.

The European Council meeting, consisting of representatives of EU member states, agreed to end the European sanctions "as a means to facilitate the political dialogue process". At the same time the EU reiterated its intention to continue its efforts "to promote respect for human rights and real progress towards a pluralist democracy."

While the EU decision will undoubtedly not see a total end to European interference in Cuban internal affairs the decision is to be welcomed. We very much hope that the decision signals the beginning of a positive process of engagement between EU countries and Cuba that will embrace trade, cultural, scientific and full relations based on mutual respect and understanding.

The decision is clearly opposed by those elements in the United States that want to continue the failed aggressive blockade measures against the island. Even within the EU states there is a clear division between those that promote positive engagement, where Spain takes a leading role, and those that promote aggression and intervention in Cuba, including countries such as Czech Republic.

The UK Government has, after a lengthy period of hesitation and prevarication, finally listened to the voices of common sense on Cuba.

Following a five-year campaign on this issue the Cuba Solidarity Campaign would like to express its gratitude for the tireless efforts put in over the years by members of the Campaign, friends, trade unionists and Parliamentary representatives that has seen these unjust sanctions overturned.

In Westminster a total of 277 individual MPs have signed one or more of 3 separate Early Day Motions calling for the UK and the European Union to normalise relations with Cuba and for the removal of sanctions. The All Party Parliamentary Group on Cuba has played an invaluable role in ensuring this issue was highlighted in Parliament and in involving MPs in the campaign to remove the sanctions.

The campaign was not restricted to Parliament. Thousands of people contacted their MPs to ask them to support the campaign against EU sanctions and to raise the issue with UK Government Ministers. Without the effort and dedication that these individuals have put in the success that we have achieved would not have been possible.

The Cuba Solidarity Campaign is affiliated to by 24 national trade unions, representing over 5 million workers, and their campaigning work has been second-to-none. Local members, branches, regions, right up to General Secretaries have been involved in this campaign. Each has played a vital role and their efforts are greatly appreciated. 20 Trade Union General Secretaries signed an open letter to the UK Government that was published in the national press and the TUC also made strong representations to Ministers.

As George Bush comes to the dying days of his term of office it is to be hoped that the UK Government will now move to develop an independent foreign policy towards Cuba that encourages positive engagement rather than isolation.

Despite this victory in overturning EU sanctions against Cuba the campaign is by no means over. In the last few weeks alone UK banks have been complying with US extraterritorial legislation designed to prevent trade with Cuba. Lloyds Bank is the latest UK Bank to penalise their own customers in order to comply with the US Government's vindictive vendetta against Cuba. The Cuba Solidarity Campaign calls upon the UK Government to enact its own legislation passed in 1996, the Protection of Trading Interests Order, which penalises UK companies that obey US extraterritorial laws over and above UK laws.

This latest attack on Cuba comes as a result of the ongoing illegal US blockade of Cuba that has been repeatedly condemned by the United Nations. The last vote on this at the United Nations in October 2007 saw the blockade condemned by 184 governments compared to only 4 in favour of the blockade.

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