Spain wants EU-Cuba agreement in first half of 2010

News from Cuba | Saturday, 28 November 2009

Report from AFP

Spain will seek to establish a new bilateral agreement on EU-Cuba ties, including human rights, in the first half of 2010 when it will hold the EU's rotating presidency, its foreign minister said Saturday.

Spain's Miguel Angel Moratinos stressed his country's intentions after a European Union meeting with Cuba, represented by its foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez.

The talks were the fourth of their kind since Europe established a political dialogue with Havana last year.

Spain has been in the forefront of efforts to boost relations with Cuba. Madrid wants to see an end to the European Union's Common Position on Cuba, adopted in 1996, which calls for human rights and democracy progress as a condition for normal relations with the European bloc.

The Spanish government "hopes to initiate during its presidency," in the first half of next year "a bilateral cooperation framework" with Cuba, Moratinos told reporters after the meeting in Brussels.

The current common position "is only the unilateral position of the European Union," he underlined, whereas under a bilateral deal Havana would have to make commitments, including on human rights.

He promised that if the Spanish initiative went ahead "there will be a strong chapter" on human rights.

Saturday's meeting was also attended by EU Development Commissioner Karel De Gucht, and Frank Belfrage, state secretary for foreign affairs for Sweden, which currently holds the EU presidency which it will hand over to Spain at the end of the year.

Cuban minister Rodriguez agreed with Moratinos that ties with Europe were heading in the right direction, saying he was convinced that "the majority of EU nations are in favour of standardising relations.

Rodriguez reiterated however that the EU's common position is an "insuperable obstacle" that should be scrapped as soon as possible.

The EU suspended ties with Cuba after a major roundup of 75 dissidents in March 2003, but resumed aid cooperation in 2008.

Spain's policy on Cuba shifted in 2005 after Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero came to power the previous year. His conservative predecessor, Jose Maria Aznar, had adopted a policy of isolating the Communist island.

In 2007 Spain and Cuba, a former Spanish colony, renewed ties.

[pict: Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos (L) and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez chat BRUSSELS (AFP)]

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