Monday

3rd Oct 2022

Cuba and EU have 'real dialogue'

  • Cuban cigars: there has been a moderate human rights thaw on the island (Photo: Wikipedia)

The European Union should normalise relations with Havana, development commissioner Louis Michel said as the EU and Cuba held talks in Brussels on Monday (11 May). But the Czech EU presidency is taking a more cautious approach over human rights.

"I think that if the European Union does not consolidate the normalisation of relations with Cuba, the Americans will do so before us," Mr Michel said.

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

Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez welcomed the commissioner's words.

"Cuba is ready to normalise relations, to establish a new start in the relationship between the European Union and Cuba," he said, adding that the current EU position on relations with the Communist island was "obsolete."

Mr Rodriquez was in the European capital for discussions with the Czech foreign minister, Jan Kohout, and EU foreign affairs chief, Javier Solana.

Following the meeting, Mr Kohout noted that problems remained on the question of human rights.

"Our views did converge on the issues of climate change and UN reform. They did not in the area of human rights," he told reporters. "We came back to the issue of political prisoners in Cuba and their health, and the answer we got was that in Cuba there are no political prisoners."

The Czech minister underlined that there had been "a real dialogue, not just two monologues," however.

Mr Rodriguez, for his part, maintained that all those held in Cuban jails were imprisoned for legal infractions rather than due to their political opinions.

"These are legal decisions, and not of a political nature," he said. "The Cuban penal system fully complies with all standards in this domain."

According to Amnesty International's latest global report, from 2008, at least 62 prisoners of conscience remained imprisoned in Cuba. Political dissidents, independent journalists and human rights activists continued to be harassed and detained.

The group describes restrictions on freedom of expression, association and movement as "severe." The country also retains the death penalty. At the same time, Amnesty notes that economic and social rights on the island are strong, with a 99.8 percent literacy rate, long life expectancy and infant mortality rates on a par or above European countries.

The group also reports that four prisoners of conscience and other political dissidents were released in 2008 and the government ratified two human rights treaties.

Spring thaw

It is this moderate human rights 'thaw' since the transition in rule from longtime leader Fidel Castro to his brother, Raul, that has prompted a cautious shift in perspective in both Brussels and Washington.

In 1996, the EU member states took a common position that called for democratic pluralism and respect for human rights in Cuba. The bloc then imposed sanctions following a crackdown on dissidents in 2003.

Sanctions were suspended in 2005 and lifted after a decision by EU leaders last June. In October, Louis Michel visited the island and signed a declaration pledging to re-establish bilateral co-operation.

The new US administration has also loosened up on Cuba, with President Barack Obama encouraging a re-evaluation of Washington's Cuba policy in April.

EU foreign ministers will discuss the question of normalising relations on 15 June in Luxembourg.

"I don't see much interest in deciding to re-impose sanctions," said commissioner Michel.

News in Brief

  1. EU ministers adopt measures to tackle soaring energy bills
  2. EU takes Malta to court over golden passports
  3. EU to ban Russian products worth €7bn a year more
  4. Denmark: CIA did not warn of Nord Stream attack
  5. Drone sightings in the North Sea 'occurred over months'
  6. Gazprom threatens to cut gas deliveries to Europe via Ukraine
  7. New compromise over EU energy emergency measures
  8. 15 states push for EU-wide gas price cap

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  3. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  4. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries

Latest News

  1. Editor's weekly digest: A week of leaks
  2. Putin declares holy war on Western 'satanism'
  3. Two elections and 'Macron's club' in focus Next WEEK
  4. EU agrees windfall energy firm tax — but split on gas-price cap
  5. Ukrainian chess prodigy: 'We are not going to resign ... anywhere'
  6. Going Down Under — EU needs to finish trade deal with Australia
  7. MEPs worry Russian disinfo weakens support for Ukraine
  8. Everything you need to know about the EU gas price cap plan

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us