Saturday

27th May 2017

Commission won't call Castro a dictator

  • EU commissioner for international cooperation and development, Neven Mimica, in La Havana in March 2016. Castro was "one of the historic figures of the past century," the commission says. (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission maintained on Monday (28 November), that the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro was a "hero for many," suggesting that labelling him a dictator did not reflect the institution's view.

Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said that the EU executive chief Jean-Claude Juncker "opted for [a] balanced appreciation of the historical journey of Fidel Castro," after his death last Friday (25 November).

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

In a statement on Saturday, roundly criticised on social media, Juncker said that Castro was "one of the historic figures of the past century" and that "the world has lost a man who was a hero for many."

"He changed the course of his country and his influence reached far beyond. Fidel Castro remains one of the revolutionary figures of the 20th century. His legacy will be judged by history," he added.

Asked at the commission daily press briefing why Juncker had used the word "hero", Schinas insisted that "it was not 'a hero' but 'a hero for many'."

He added that the statement was "quite similar to the one by US president Barack Obama," because it also said that history would judge the former leader.

Replying to a Czech correspondent who pointed out the number of people killed and imprisoned under Castro, or that he supported the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia, the spokesman said that this was "a very long list of value judgements".

When you go into this territory, "you do it from a historic perspective, from a global perspective, not a very narrow view of reality as you just expressed it," Schinas told Czech public TV journalist Bohumil Vostal.

In a separate statement on Saturday, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, sent her "most heartfelt condolences" to current Cuban leader Raul Castro, brother of Fidel, saying Fidel was "a man of determination and a historical figure."

Both Juncker and Mogherini's statements appeared rather positive towards Castro, compared to a tweet posted by trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem.

"Fidel Castro was a dictator who oppressed his people for 50 years. Strange to hear all the tributes in the news today," she wrote, in contrast to her boss and colleague.

When asked whether the commission considered Castro as a dictator, spokesman Schinas on Monday said that "the commission's position was expressed" by Juncker and Mogherini's statements.

"Maybe there was no freedom of expression in Cuba but there is in the commission," he said, suggesting that Malmstroem's views and use of the word "dictator" were not the institution's position.

He defended the position expressed in the two official statements, saying their wording had been "very carefully chosen".

Nato head defends 'blunt' US leader

Nato chief Stoltenberg defended Trump’s behaviour at Thursday’s summit. The prime minister of Montenegro also apologised for him.

Trump lukewarm on Nato joint defence

Trump voiced half-hearted support for Nato and reprimanded allies over what he called unpaid debts on his maiden trip to Europe.

Trump lukewarm on Nato joint defence

Trump voiced half-hearted support for Nato and reprimanded allies over what he called unpaid debts on his maiden trip to Europe.

News in Brief

  1. Malloch will not be US ambassador to the EU
  2. 'Significant' drop in EU migration to UK
  3. Bomb injures former Greek PM
  4. British PM to speak out on US terrorism leaks
  5. Tusk calls for 'values, not just interests' after Trump meeting
  6. Pressure grows on climate impact of EU timber harvesting
  7. US goes after Fiat Chrysler over emissions cheat
  8. Munich police break up Europe-wide burglar clan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  3. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  5. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  6. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  8. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  9. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  10. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  11. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  12. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms