Monday

27th Sep 2021

Exclusive

MEPs' Cuba trip foiled by US embargo

  • European Parliament's in-house travel agency is paid a monthly management fee of €157,082, according to 2018 budget report (Photo: Frans Persoon)
Listen to article

The European Parliament's in-house travel agency, CWT Global, is a US owned-company and therefore will not be able to book MEP flights to Cuba - because of the American embargo against Havana.

"This clearly raises the question of how the European Parliament could have chosen an agency, which is restricted in its activities by foreign legislation," said Tilly Metz, a Green MEP from Luxembourg, in a recent letter sent to European Parliament president David Sassoli.

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

  • Metz's letter sent to David Sassoli (Photo: EUobserver)

The letter comes ahead of a European Parliament resolution on Cuba this week, and amid a wider discussion on EU strategic autonomy on the global stage.

Metz chairs the European Parliament's delegation to Central America (DCAM), which had over the summer requested a September mission to Cuba.

But CWT then refused to book the flights, citing US sanctions, says Metz.

The letter came as leaders of the parliament's political groups, known as the Conference of Presidents, approved the delegation's mission to Cuba.

The issue came to light after the delegation's secretariat had asked CWT to provide quotes for flights to Cuba.

"To our surprise however, the travel agency could not provide a quote because, as a US-owned company, it has to respect the US embargo against Cuba," said Metz, in her letter.

She says the US embargo also apply to other countries like Iran - tossing a possible spanner into other future MEP visits. Metz said CWT had to instead outsource the flights to another agency, leading to delays.

CWT Global itself has yet to respond for a comment.

It won a travel agency tender for both the European Parliament and the European Ombudsman.

A 2018 European Parliament budget report says the firm is paid a monthly management fee of €157,082 and employed 37 staff.

The delegation was also hoping to go Nicaragua. But both countries declined their requests for various reasons.

MEPs from the liberal Renew Europe, centre-right EPP and conservative ECR, have been hawkish on Cuba.

The groups tabled a joint resolution in June, condemning Havana's treatment of political prisoners and artists.

They also jumped on allegations over the summer that a Spanish socialist MEP had cosy ties with the Cuban regime.

Their resolution came as the United Nations general assembly demanded the US end the embargo against Cuba for the 29th consecutive year.

For its part, the EU opposes the US blockade of Cuba but also condemned Havana's crackdown against July protests.

DCAM's vice-chairs are German centre-right MEP Jens Gieseke and Spanish liberal Javier Nart. 

Both are said to be unhappy about the US sanctions on the travel agency and had agreed to have DCAM send the letter to Sassoli.

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.

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.

Feature

The dilemma of Europe's returning female jihadis

This month, three Swedish women landed in Stockholm, expelled from Syria together with their children. Two of the women were arrested, one suspected of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Their children were immediately taken into custody.

Yemen's refugees in 'appalling conditions', says UN agency

Yemen hosts around 130,000 refugees and 12,000 asylum seekers. In a country wrecked by six years of war, many find themselves in dire conditions and unable to leave, says Jean-Nicolas Beuze, the UN refugee agency's representative in Yemen.

Opinion

Textbook hypocrisy: EU's new low point on Palestine

Brussels institutions are devoting time not to Israel's illegal settlements and the two-state solution, but to an entirely different, peripheral issue: an EU-funded study of Palestinian Authority schoolbooks, published in June by the Georg-Eckert Institute in Germany.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed

Latest News

  1. Scaling up tidal requires flood of new cash
  2. German coalition calculus dominates This WEEK
  3. No clear winner to succeed Merkel in Germany
  4. Banks fuelling expansion of oil-and-gas Arctic extraction
  5. The dilemma of Europe's returning female jihadis
  6. Why Draghi could be a two-term prime-minister
  7. Activists: 'More deaths' expected on Polish-Belarus border
  8. EU unveils common charger plan - forcing Apple redesign

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us