Cuba Seeks to Normalize Relations with EU

News from Cuba | Sunday, 12 December 2010

Cuba has expressed to the European Union its interest in reaching a bilateral accord and in normalizing relations, though it insists that the 27-member bloc eliminate its hard-line “common position” toward the government in Havana, according to an internal EU document, to which Efe had access.

The document, the result of contacts between Brussels and Havana in recent weeks, says that Cuban authorities would be willing to accept a bilateral accord with the conditions that the EU includes in all these pacts, such as respect for human rights and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The contacts began after the EU foreign ministers on Oct. 25 assigned to the bloc’s top foreign policy official, Catherine Ashton, the responsibility of exploring avenues toward a rapprochement with Cuba, though without for the moment revoking the so-called common position.

Talks have shown that Cuba is interested in normalizing relations with the European Union and in proceeding with negotiations toward a bilateral accord, so that the island will no longer be the only country in Latin America with which the EU has no such ties, the report said.

But Havana’s representatives have insisted on the “inconvenience” of negotiating an accord with the EU as long as that bloc sticks to its common position, a strategy that according to Cuba promotes “regime change” on the island.

The common position, in force since 1996, conditions the development of relations with the EU on progress in human rights and democratization in Cuba, a position steadfastly rejected by Havana as an attempt to meddle in the island’s internal affairs.

Yet conversations in recent weeks have shown that Cuban authorities could accept getting the negotiation process underway even if the common position remains in force, hoping for its repeal when the EU foreign ministers give the go-ahead for negotiating an accord.

Looking toward the future, the EU document suggests the possibility that the next session of political dialogue might be held next month between Ashton and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, with the goal of obtaining some commitments from Havana about freeing all its political prisoners and allowing back into Cuba those who have been freed and sent abroad.

At the same time, Ashton could establish bilateral contacts with the EU countries most interested in the matter including Spain, France, Germany, Sweden and the Czech Republic, to try and create a consensus on how to undertake negotiations with Havana.

Ashton could then present the results at the Jan. 31 meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

Ashton initially planned to present her report to the ministers at next Monday’s meeting, but postponing it until the end of January would allow more contacts to be made with Cuba and some EU countries.EFE

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