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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)
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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.

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  • 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.

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