EU should relaunch Cotonou agreement talks with Cuba: Madrid

Campaign News | Saturday, 23 October 2004

Spain wishes to unfreeze relations

BRUSSELS 22 October: Spain called on the European Union on Friday to help Cuba negotiate entry into the Cotonou Agreement, an EU trade and development aid pact with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) developing countries.

"Cuba would be better as part of the Cotonou Agreement than under the EU's non-negotiated, unilateral common policy" of sanctions, said Enrique Viguera, chief coordinator for European affairs at the Spanish foreign ministry.

By allowing Cuba to join the comprehensive trade pact, which already includes all other Caribbean nations, the EU would gain "on the political front, and would be better able to monitor the respect of human rights" in Cuba, he said.

"We will see how circumstances evolve and whether the reality makes it possible for Cuba to join Cotonou," added Viguera, who was speaking at a forum on relations between Cuba, Spain and the EU, organised by a Cuban business magazine.

Membership of the agreement would be worth an estimated 48 million euros (60 million dollars) per year for Cuba, according to the Spanish official.

Spain's Socialist government has dropped its conservative predecessor's hardline stance towards the Cuban regime of Fidel Castro, claiming that the current policy of diplomatic sanctions is ineffective.

European Union nations met on Tuesday for contentious talks called by Spain on whether the 25-nation bloc should adopt a softer line towards Castro.

The EU applied sanctions in June 2003 after 75 Cuban dissidents were arrested and given heavy jail terms. They were also in protest at the execution of three Cubans who were trying to flee the country.

In response, Havana refused to accept further EU humanitarian aid and pulled out of negotiations aimed at membership of the Cotonou Agreement.

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, backs a resumption of dialogue with Cuba and is hoping that Castro's government will reverse its decision to refuse EU development aid funds.

The Cotonou Agreement, signed at Cotonou in Benin in June 2000, includes an element of political dialogue on such issues as peace and security, arms trade and migration -- not covered under traditional aid agreements.

UK said to be against Spanish bid for softer line on Cuba

European Union nations met on 19 October for contentious talks called by Spain on whether the 25-nation bloc should adopt a softer line towards Cuba. Britain was said to be among those countries against change.

The officials agreed to request reports from their respective ambassadors in Cuba on the current situation there, Efe news agency reported.

These reports will be the basis for discussion during the next meeting, taking place 16 November. No final decsion was reached.

The meeting, involving senior foreign ministry officials from EU member states, came after a new Socialist government took power in Spain in March and dropped its conservative predecessor's hardline stance towards Castro.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's government "is looking for a new type of relationship" with Cuba, an EU diplomat said, notably by dropping sanctions adopted by the EU in June 2003.

The EU adopted the sanctions after 75 dissidents were arrested and given heavy jail terms, as well as in protest against the execution of three Cubans who were trying to flee the country.

Among the EU measures was a decision to invite Cuban dissidents to embassy receptions to mark national days, which led Castro to break off dialogue with the bloc in retaliation.

Spain considers that this approach "is going nowhere" and wants a more structured relationship involving systematic contacts with Castro opponents rather than such "symbolic" gestures, the EU diplomat said.

Under Madrid's suggested approach, the EU would stop issuing the invitations and see if relations with Cuba improve, "to see if there is a positive step-up rather than the negative downward spiral in which we are now".

But the EU would retain the right to re-impose the sanctions while also holding regular contacts with dissidents, sources said.

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, backs a resumption of dialogue with Cuba and is hoping that Castro's government will reverse a decision to refuse EU development aid funds.

But the Spanish initiative has run into varying degrees of opposition from other EU member states which are wary of being seen as rewarding Castro without any democratic reforms in return.

Britain, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden are all understood to be against softening the EU's pressure on the Cuban regime.

The Brussels meeting comes after Cuban dissidents walked out of a Spanish national day reception at the country's embassy in Havana earlier this month when Spain's ambassador aired the conciliatory line being pushed by Madrid.

After the controversy erupted, Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said Spain was right to ask its EU partners to change a policy that has proven itself "fairly ineffective".

Aznar MP tries to enter Cuba illegally

ON Saturday October 16, the Cuban authorities reported that Spanish deputy Jorge Moragas had been deported from Cuba after "attempting to enter our territory fraudulently and illegally under the migratory status of a tourist."

A note from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs specified that the Popular Party representative and "staunch enemy of the Cuban Revolution" arrived on the evening of October 15 on the Air France Flight 479 and the migratory authorities proceeded to escort him onto the return Paris flight.

The message reads that Moragas was accompanying two Dutch parliamentarians and two representatives from alleged NGOs that are engaged in anti-Cuban activities in Spain and the Netherlands, and these individuals were also returned.

The note from the Foreign Ministry states that the Spanish deputy’s arrival was preceded by a noisy propaganda campaign.

The Popular Party, it goes on to say, released a statement last Thursday confirming that Moragas was to travel to Cuba with the aim of offering "support and solidarity" to mercenaries operating in Cuba under the pay of the United States.

The deputy himself made a statement to that effect that was published on October 14 and 15 by the EFE and Europa Press news agencies, according to the message.

The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicated that "the activities they publicly declared as the aims of their trip constitute a flagrant violation of our sovereignty and are anticipated and sanctioned in our legislation. This is a gross political provocation against Cuba."

It added that Moragas is well-known "for his longstanding links with the failed and pathetic José María Aznar, who is currently enthusiastically devoting his time to spending the five million dollars that U.S. President George W. Bush recently awarded him in order to organize anti-Cuba activities and events."

It adds that the Spanish citizen and PP international secretary has carried out repeated anti-Cuban activities in the Spanish parliament.

The statement recalls that this is the second occasion on which Moragas has traveled to Havana to make contact with and offer financial support to the mercenaries.

Last July, the note went on, he also entered the country on a tourist visa, an occasion on which, with extraordinary moderation and patience, the authorities confined themselves to warning him there would be no impunity for such acts.

"We have the sovereign right to defend ourselves, our patience has limits and we will not remain silent over interfering behavior or provocations by enemies whom, at the service of U.S. policy, are attempting to subvert the internal order of our country," concluded the note from the Cuban Foreign Ministry. (AIN)

| top | back | home |
Share on FacebookTweet this