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19th Aug 2022

Diplomats asked to revise ties with Cuban opposition

The EU has agreed to revise the way it deals with Cuba's dissidents in order to develop political dialogue with Fidel Castro's government.

Representatives from the EU-25 on Tuesday (16 November) agreed to look into ways of making contacts with dissidents and civil society "more effective", according to the Dutch Presidency.

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Diplomats said on Tuesday that they would continue to engage with Cuba's opposition but were looking to do so in a more productive way, leaving the path open for talks with government officials.

A largely symbolic move to invite dissidents to national festivities at EU embassies has seen Cuba restrict European diplomats' access to top Cuban officials.

The EU stepped up contacts with the opposition figures in June 2003 following the summary execution of three men who attempted to hijack a boat to the US - ending Cuba's de facto moratorium on the death penalty.

The matter is now likely to be dealt with at Foreign Minister level.

Dissention

"Their [the Cuban government's] logic is that this puts government officials at the same level as the opposition... they find this unacceptable", Joaquín Roy, Director of the Centre for EU studies at the University of Miami told the EUobserver on Tuesday.

Since Spain's left of centre government took power in March this year, Madrid has been most active in lobbying to revise the EU's common position.

With Fidel Castro now thought to be 78, focus is now on how to help ensure Cuba receives a "soft landing" - as some commentators have put it.

"When the transition happens [EU] member states, and in particular Spain, would like to be in a better position, rather than in a vacuum where they have no presence", said Dr Roy.

However, the move has not gone down well with Cuban pro-democracy campaigners.

Earlier this week, Oswaldo Paya, a 2002 laureate of the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize, urged the EU not to change its common position.

In a letter to the heads of Parliament and Commission Mr Paya said that the position of some governments would be understood, but that a change of EU policy is not in Cuba's interests.

"They can act according to their interests and abandon this ethical position, for reasons of their interests. But what no-one can say, without insulting our intelligence, is that to abandon this position and destroy these acts and symbols is in the interests of Cuba and peaceful change", he said.

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