France makes unilateral move to mend Cuba relations
Campaign News | Tuesday, 19 July 2005
Government officials invited to national day celebrations
Havana 18 July: France last week invited members of the Cuban government to an event celebrating its national holiday (14 July), going beyond the EU's policy on the matter.
The French embassy in Cuba invited the communist officials in order to "open frank and constructive dialogue, which is indispensable to understanding and progress", said French ambassador to Havana Marie-France Pagnier, according to AFP.
The French invitation to Cuban officials was the first of its kind in the two years since the EU froze diplomatic contacts with Havana.
The bloc made the move in June 2003, after 75 dissidents, including 26 independent journalists, were arrested and sentenced to up to 28 years in prison. Only 14 of them have been released since.
The Cuban government had also suspended all contact with European diplomats, including attendance at national events of EU member countries, in protest over invitations to dissidents, AFP writes.
In January 2005, EU foreign ministers suspended the diplomatic sanctions against Cuba for six months, and in June they agreed that the sanctions should remain on the shelf for one more year.
"Finally, today, Europe's inevitable correction has come", Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said.
"It is clear that the the so-called sanctions adopted by the European Union in 2003 were unjust and ineffective", he added.
On the other hand, some European diplomats were critical of the French move.
"I am sad", said Portugal's ambassador to Cuba, Mario Rodino de Matos.
"It is a success for France, but I would have preferred that the European Union keep a unified position", he added.
France had also invited several Cuban dissidents to the embassy before the Bastille Day celebration.
But almost all of the dissidents called the French move an "error", and expressed "their profound concern as regards the lack of symmetry in the relations between the EU and Havana", said Elizardo Sanchez, president of the Cuban commission for human rights and national reconciliation, according to Le Monde.