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22nd Feb 2020

EU set to normalise relations with Cuba

The European Union is moving closer to resuming normal contacts with Cuba after a 19 month diplomatic freeze.

Meeting on Monday (31 January) in Brussels the EU ministers will discuss a proposal to normalise relations with Cuba, which have been rocky since 5 June 2003.

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A draft declaration for the meeting says that "all the measures taken on June 5, 2003 will be temporarily suspended," according to news agency AFP.

In 2003, the EU put relations with Cuba on ice after some 75 dissidents were arrested and sentenced to up to 28 years in prison. Only 14 of them have so far been released.

Fidel Castro’s communist government responded to the EU freeze by breaking off all ties to EU embassies in Cuba.

But Havana was then angered by the practice, by some EU embassies in Cuba, of inviting Cuban dissidents to receptions.

Over the past months, Cuba has re-established contacts with EU member states, beginning with its closest ally Spain and ending with those most hostile to the Cuban regime: the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, as well as the EU as a whole.

According to the draft for Monday's meeting, the EU would combine the normalisation of diplomatic ties with a demand that Cuba unconditionally release all political prisoners still in detention. The foreign ministers will make the normalisation temporary and examine the suspension again before July, according to the draft.

Sakharov Prize

But the biggest political group in the European Parliament has warned that European diplomacy might to fall into a trap if the diplomatic freeze is lifted.

In a letter sent to acting Council President Jean-Claude Juncker, the EPP-ED Group Chairman Hans-Gert Poettering called on the Council Presidency not to commit the European Union to a revision of its policy towards Cuba.

"It is totally unacceptable that the Cuban government will decide who our representations in Havana can, or cannot invite. This would constitute a terrible precedent for the future," Mr Poettering concluded.

The German MEP also drew attention to the fact that Oswaldo Payá, the 2002 Sakharov Prize laureate, is not allowed to come to the European Parliament.

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