Europe steers clear of US aggression towards Cuba

Campaign News | Sunday, 18 June 2006

Victory for Cuba Solidarity organisations as EU Foreign Ministers decide to maintain dialogue with the island

London 14 June: The European Union decided on Monday to maintain the status quo of dialogue with Cuba. EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg resisted pressure from the US and its Eastern European allies to impose diplomatic sanctions on the island.

The decision is a victory for Cuba solidarity groups all over Europe, including the UK-based Cuba Solidarity Campaign, who mounted an intense campaign prior to the meeting to persuade their respective governments not to worsen their relations with the island.

An Early Day Motion calling on the UK to develop better relations with Cuba and tabled by Ian Gibson MP, has acquired the support of 188 MPs from all political parties.

CSC director Rob Miller welcomed the news: “We congratulate those European countries who opposed the attempt to sour relations with Cuba. However the EU is still placing unfair conditions on its relationship with Cuba and this is an obvious interference in Cuba's sovereignty. We must ensure that every effort is made to now see real progress in developing a positive relationship based on mutual respect, trade and understanding."

It is not clear what position Britain took at the meeting but the foreign ministers decided to maintain for another year the policy of dialogue with Cuba, a posture adopted 17 months ago when the bloc lifted diplomatic sanctions against the island.

The Council of Ministers approved a document that says the European Union "deplores the worsening of the human rights situation" in Cuba since the last review, which took place in June 2005, but stops short of reimposing diplomatic sanctions on the island adopted in 2003.

EU officials said the EU would hold off on diplomatic sanctions until the next policy review in June 2007, and in the meantime promote "a genuine dialogue with Havana, peaceful dissidents and civil society."

At the same time, the document foresees the opening of a process among the member states to determine what the mid- and long-term strategy should be in the European Union's relations with Cuba.

The document seeks to reconcile the positions of those who want to maintain the current policy such as Spain, and other members, principally the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Sweden who contend that it has not produced what they call "satisfactory" results.

The EU froze relations with Cuba in June 2003, after 75 US agents were arrested and sentenced for up to 28 years in prison for having accepted payments from an enemy power. 15 have been released since then.

In January 2005, EU foreign ministers suspended the sanctions to see whether dialogue with Havana would prove a more effective policy. Since then the US has lobbied hard in Europe to have the sanctions reimposed.

The Cuban government refuses to recognise the right of the EU or any other government to dictate what its internal policies should be. The EU 'common position' makes relations with Cuba conditional on Cuba's alleged 'human rights' record, and is therefore viewed as in breach of Cuba's sovereignty and therefore unacceptable to Havana.

Only last week, the Cuban parliament passed a resolution declaring that Cuba would never accept any policies or economic relationships that implied political conditions of any kind.

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