Monday

26th Sep 2022

EU ambassador in hot water over Cuba letter

  • EU ambassador asked to personally come to Brussels to give his version of events (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The EU has asked its ambassador to Cuba to explain why he signed an open letter asking the US to stop being "hostile" to Havana.

"In the context of the mentioned letter, we have requested the ambassador to come to Brussels to provide explanations to the HRVP [EU foreign relations chief Josep Borrell]," an EU spokesman told EUobserver on Sunday (28 February).

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 the meantime, we have asked him to provide a note detailing the matter," the spokesman added.

The unusual step does not mean the EU envoy, Alberto Navarro, will necessarily be sacked or even reprimanded.

But 16 MEPs, including the deputy head of the centre-right European People's Party group, Esteban González Pons, and the vice-president for relations with Latin America, Dita Charanzová, have called for him to go.

Navarro's anti-US letter targeted "a friend and ally of the EU, to which he is not accredited", the MEPs said.

"We consider that the current ambassador is not worthy of the high functions he holds and ... we strongly request you to proceed with his immediate replacement," they urged Borrell last week.

The EU has long-opposed the decades-old US trade embargo on Cuba.

It has also opposed former US president Donald Trump's new sanctions on Cuba, which could lead to fines on Spanish tourism or French drinks firms which do business there.

Borrell himself urged US president Joe Biden to drop the policies after video-talks with Cuba's foreign minister, which he held on the same day (20 January) as Biden's inauguration.

Borrell also attacked the US on Cuba while he was on a trip to Moscow last month, saying he "strongly rejected" the American sanctions, which "created a lot of difficulties for Cuban people".

More than 70 MEPs, at the time, also took Borrell to task for attacking Europe's main ally, before the EU had even had a chance to talk Biden's administration.

Borrell's office said he did nothing wrong, because he had merely restated an agreed EU line.

"The state department's policy on Cuba will continue to support democracy and human rights, through empowering the Cuban people to determine their own future," a US spokesman told EUobserver, in reaction to Borrell's Moscow remarks.

But Navarro, the EU ambassador in Cuba, went further in his anti-US rhetoric.

The open letter he signed told Biden "to personally take executive action" to lift the restrictions.

It also urged the US president to "stop being a hostile neighbour" and to "stop interfering in [Cuba's] domestic affairs".

The US-EU discord comes amid an economic crunch in Cuba caused by the pandemic, with reports of mass-scale queues for basic food and sanitary items.

But it also comes amid the Cuban regime's same old abuses, European NGOs say.

Cuba had "taken harsh steps to limit basic rights and freedoms, including artistic and academic freedom, increasingly punishing those who hold alternative views," Lucia Argüellova, from Czech NGO People in Need, recently told EUobserver.

"Cuban authorities continue to use arbitrary detentions, inhuman treatment, threats, large fines, and imprisonment ... to silence critical voices," she said.

Russia humiliates Borrell in Moscow

Russia expelled European diplomats and harangued the EU on human rights, while Borrell went off-script on Cuba in Moscow on Friday.

EU and Cuba appeal for Biden to open up

The EU is coaxing US president Joe Biden to open up to Cuba amid its worst economic crisis in decades, but foreign money risks feeding the regime's "feared" rule.

EU welcomes thaw in US-Cuba relations

The European Union has welcomed the agreement between US and Cuba to re-establish diplomatic relations, a move which matches with its own approach to Cuba.

EU urges Cuba to let people protest

The Cuban government should listen to its people's grievances instead of reacting with a crackdown on the biggest demonstrations there in 30 years.

Exclusive

MEPs' Cuba trip foiled by US embargo

CWT Global is the European Parliament's in-house travel agency. But the US owned firm cannot book MEP flights to Cuba, due to the American embargo. MEPs now question why this agency was selected in the first place.

Opinion

How to apply the Nuremberg model for Russian war crimes

A Special Tribunal on Russian war crimes in Ukraine must be convened, because no permanent or existing international judicial institution is endowed with jurisdiction over Russian high-ranking officials, writes the head of the Ukraine delegation to the Council of Europe.

Opinion

Losing on the Ukrainian battlefield will not unseat Putin

Notwithstanding the remarkable Ukrainian advances, a Russian defeat would not necessarily translate into regime change in Moscow. It is likely Putin will try to spin his military setbacks as evidence of the existential threat facing Russia.

News in Brief

  1. More Russians now crossing Finnish land border
  2. Report: EU to propose €584bn energy grid upgrade plan
  3. Morocco snubs Left MEPs probing asylum-seeker deaths
  4. EU urges calm after Putin's nuclear threat
  5. Council of Europe rejects Ukraine 'at gunpoint' referendums
  6. Lithuania raises army alert level after Russia's military call-up
  7. Finland 'closely monitoring' new Russian mobilisation
  8. Flights out of Moscow sell out after Putin mobilisation order

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  5. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling

Latest News

  1. Ireland joins EU hawks on Russia, as outrage spreads
  2. Editor's weekly digest: Plea for support edition
  3. Investors in renewables face uncertainty due to EU profits cap
  4. How to apply the Nuremberg model for Russian war crimes
  5. 'No big fish left' for further EU sanctions on Russians
  6. Meloni's likely win will not necessarily strengthen Orbán
  7. France latest EU member to step up government spending in 2023
  8. Big Tech now edges out Big Energy in EU lobbying

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us