Wednesday

6th Jul 2022

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).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

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".

Opinion

Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways

For the most part Nato and its 30 leaders rose to the occasion — but it wasn't without room for improvement. The lesson remains that Nato still doesn't know how or want to hold allies accountable for disruptive behaviour.

Column

One rubicon after another

We realise that we are living in one of those key moments in history, with events unfolding exactly the way Swiss art historian Jacob Burckhardt describes them: a sudden crisis, rushing everything into overdrive.

News in Brief

  1. Turkey signs Nato protocol despite Sweden extradition row
  2. European gas production hit by Norway strike
  3. EU Commission told to step up fight against CAP fraud
  4. Ukraine needs €719bn to rebuild, says PM
  5. Germany records first monthly trade deficit since 1991
  6. Pilots from Denmark, Norway, and Sweden strike
  7. Report: EU to sign hydrogen deal with Namibia
  8. Israel and Poland to mend relations

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. 'World is watching', as MEPs vote on green finance rules
  2. Turkey sends mixed signals on Sweden's entry into Nato
  3. EU Parliament sued over secrecy on Nazi MEP expenses
  4. Italy glacier tragedy has 'everything to do' with climate change
  5. The Digital Services Act — a case-study in keeping public in dark
  6. Report slams German opposition to new child sexual abuse rules
  7. Is China a challenge to Nato? Beijing responds
  8. ECB announces major green shift in corporate bond-buying

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us