Monday

17th Jun 2019

EU invites talks on 'new situation' in Cuba

EU foreign ministers have invited a Cuban delegation to visit Brussels while suspending diplomatic sanctions for a further six months, in a move claimed as victory by the pro-relations Spanish camp but seen as a compromise by the more human rights-oriented Czech side.

"The EU would be ready to resume a comprehensive and open political dialogue with the Cuban authorities...For sounding out this, a Cuban delegation will be invited to Brussels," the ministers said in a statement on Monday (18 June), with no details of who is to come from Havana or when the trip might take place.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Cuban dancers: Havana cultivates European tourists, but daily life is hard for ordinary islanders (Photo: wikipedia)

The invitation - after four years of official silence between Europe and the Caribbean regime - was made in the context of Fidel Castro's health problems, with the EU saying "the first temporary transfer of power in 48 years to a collective leadership led by his brother Raoul Castro...constitutes a new situation."

The declaration saw a reminder the EU "deplores" Cuban human rights abuses and "urges" Havana to free political prisoners. "The EU will continue to pursue its dialogue with Cuba's civil society and to offer all sectors of society practical support toward peaceful change," the EU ministers said.

The accent on human rights restates an existing EU position dating back to 1996. But a more racy EU strategy paper on how to promote "self-determination" by Cuban people via new projects on education and energy has been left on the shelf, after Spain blocked its publication for fear of harming nascent relations.

The EU reference to ongoing "practical support" for the Cuban opposition also masks inactivity on the ground in Havana. A recent visit to the capital by an EUobserver correspondent was told EU embassies are bugged by Cuban secret police and tiny EU funds are only spent on state-sponsored "cultural" schemes.

Spain - which had originally pushed to have sanctions lifted permanently - saw the EU statement as validation of its approach. "The Spanish position won through - that means dialogue. The gamble of going to Cuba paid off," the IHT reported Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos as saying, after he visited the island in April.

The Czech republic and the UK were more wary. "We'll see if they [the Cubans] show up, and if so, what the talks will bring," Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg told newswires. "We have our principles which are also the principles of the European Union. We have to support those so as not to delude ourselves."

The British foreign office explained that Monday's decision reiterates "the EU's desire for political and economic reform in Cuba and that human rights remain at the heart of the EU's policy toward Cuba."

Clash of EU ideologies

Spain - a colonial power in Cuba until 1898 - is bidding for new oil contracts in Cuban waters. But its position also reflects the ideology of some left-wing European politicians, who see the island as having bravely resisted a US trade embargo while developing healthcare and progressive environmental reforms.

The Czech and British line - a mixture of post-Communist appetite for velvet revolutions and wider pro-US foreign policy alignment - portrays Cuba as an anachronistic dictatorship. Czech diplomats and NGOs say basic healthcare is not available to the poor, in a police state that hounds its critics to jail.

Eighty-year old Fidel Castro, a living symbol of the Cold War, on Monday published an article accusing the US of trying to conquer his country. The leader's occasional media forays are designed to show he is alive and well after last July going down with suspected diverticulitis - inflammation of the large intestine.

In a front page piece in daily Granma entitled "You will never have Cuba," he wrote he had been on "the brink of life and death" but promised to continue buying "pertinent firepower" to resist a US threat. Addressing the US president, he wrote "You shouldn't doubt it either, Mr Bush. I can assure you, you will never have Cuba!"

Fidel Castro lambasts EU

Cuban leader Fidel Castro has criticised the workings of the European Union, saying the bloc is in disarray and has tagged onto the US into taking a hard line against Cuba.

Trump advocates no-deal Brexit on eve of UK visit

Johnson and Farage in charge, a no-deal Brexit, chlorinated chicken in British shops, and privatised healthcare - that is what the UK should head towards, Trump and his ambassador have said.

Analysis

EU should stop an insane US-Iran war

"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!", US president Donald Trump tweeted on Monday (20 May).

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  3. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  5. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  6. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  7. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  8. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody

Latest News

  1. Erdogan mocks Macron amid EU sanctions threat
  2. The most dangerous pesticide you've never heard of
  3. 'Russian sources' targeted EU elections with disinformation
  4. Top EU jobs summit dominates This WEEK
  5. EP parties planning 'coalition agenda' ahead of jobs summit
  6. MEP blasts Portugal over football whistleblower
  7. Catalonia MEPs are a judicial, not political, issue
  8. Meet the lawyer taking the EU migration policy to the ICC

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  2. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  5. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  10. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  11. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  12. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us