Monday, March 10, 2008

EU sanctions to be erased? (Updated)

EU aid chief Louis Michel wants to end Europe’s “diplomatic sanctions” on Cuba, Reuters reports.

One could say that Michel wants the EU to give up something for nothing, but these sanctions were a nothingburger anyway – they were in effect for two years and were suspended since 2005. When in effect, they involved a ban on high-level visits by EU officials, a requirement that dissidents be invited to EU embassies’ national day receptions, and similar measures.

Michel discussed human rights on the visit, but you have to dig deep down in the joint communiqué to learn that fact.

Michel’s reasoning, from the Reuters report:

Michel found that economic and political changes, including advances in human rights, are in the pipeline, though they may take time and are not being publicly broadcast by the new leadership, Manservisi [his aide] said.

”Michel is more than ever convinced that a situation of political immobility by the European Union in this context of underground movement would be a big mistake," Manservisi said.

Michel may be in a special hurry to convince EU member states to take this step, considering that the Czech Republic assumes the EU presidency in January 2009.

[Update: Dissidents told EFE they were disappointed in the visit. If Michel’s ideas represent the future EU policy, Oswaldo Paya says, then “it would be abandoning an ethical path and ignoring the rights of Cubans.” In yesterday’s election in Spain, the Zapatero government was re-elected. This means no change in Spain’s policy toward Cuba, and no change in the internal EU debate over Cuba.]

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