Thursday, June 19, 2008

EU sanctions lifted (Updated)

Over dinner, the EU’s foreign ministers debated their Cuba sanctions, imposed in 2003 and suspended since 2005, and decided to lift them altogether. Reuters account (English) here; AFP’s here; Spain’s El Pais has more detail here.

According to El Pais, the EU document says the EU will enter a dialogue with Cuba that is “reciprocal, unconditional, nondiscriminatory, and geared toward obtaining results.” It will include “all potential areas of cooperation, including political sectors, human rights, economic, scientific, and cultural.” The dialogue’s effectiveness will be reviewed after one year.

The EU’s commitment to maintain contact with the Cuban opposition was reaffirmed, as was the EU’s commitment to “underscore to the Cuban government its point of view with regard to democracy, universal human rights, and fundamental liberties.” The EU will call on the Cuban government “to improve in an effective way the human rights situation through, among other things, the unconditional liberation of all political prisoners, including those who were detained and jailed in 2003.”

Update: Dissidents in Cuba largely opposed the EU decision, with Martha Beatriz Roque having the strongest reaction: “We are going to expect horrible things to happen to the opposition…their aggression will double,” she told AFP. From the Guardian, Oswaldo Paya’s reaction:

However, a leading Cuban dissident, Oswaldo Paya, said he hoped the move did not signify the EU's approval of the new administration.

”This regime has not announced any change that is significant for rights or liberty, and we know we have to conquer that ourselves,” Paya said.

The EU move is a setback for the Bush Administration, which had lobbied against it and for years has worked directly and indirectly to influence EU policy.

Comments from the Czech foreign minister are covered here.

Yesterday’s move probably means that these sanctions are gone for good. Their repeal required a unanimous decision, and it’s very telling that given the range of EU member governments’ opinions on Cuba, none exercised a veto – not even the Czechs, who have been closely aligned with the Bush Administration. As I read the reports of the decision, there is nothing in the annual review that implies that a negative result would reverse yesterday’s decision.

Reading between the lines, my guess is that the EU: 1) has not changed its objectives but wanted a change in tactics; 2) saw no sense in an annual debate over sanctions that were suspended years ago; 3) judged that the changes in Raul Castro’s first 100 days are small, positive, and to be encouraged; 4) wants to maintain support and continued contact with Cuba’s dissidents (which is probably greater than ours since their diplomats travel outside the capital and ours don’t) and will do so; 5) judged that change in Cuba, now and on the immediate horizon, is being driven not from the opposition but from within the system, and to encourage that change it’s necessary to have greater contact.

Beyond the diplomatic sphere, there may be another practical impact. A reader in Europe writes that when universities or other organizations seek EU funding for projects in Cuba, “Havana refuses to have anything to do with any projects that are funded by the EU or governments in the EU that are perceived as being in favour of the ‘sanctions.’” If that attitude changes, contacts between European civil society, supported by Brussels, could increase.


Anonymous said...

yeeeeee!! its a victory for freedom and for the cuban people. Thank you Europe.!

theCardinal said...

I am all for lifting the embargo on the US side but I'm still challenge anyone on this site to a friendly wager. The EU "conditions" for keeping the sanctions off are - "the release of all political prisoners; access for Cubans to the Internet; and a double-track approach for all EU delegations arriving in Cuba, allowing them to meet both opposition figures and members of the Cuban government."

I know that all three will not be met. I'm pretty certain that two won't be and I have a hunch that if any of these are accepted by the Cuban gov't the letter but not the spirit will be adhered to., i.e., allowing "access" to internet but with Chinese like firewalls.

Anyone want to bet that changes nothing in Cuba except make the regime happy? Go for it.

Anonymous said...

"over dinner" huh?

any idea what was on the menu Phil?

theCardinal said...

the EU could give a rat's behind about the dissidents - if not for the Czechs the they would be totally forgotten. Nothing is going to change for the positive with this. there will probably be a meeting or two for show but that's it. political prisoners will stay in prison, the media will remain state controlled and the as long as Hugo keeps giving support the market will still be tight.

I know the US takes it too far but I think the EU is just as bad in openly sanctioning and accommodating the regime. They are disgusting sycophants.

Anonymous said...

you're right Cardinal. It's a disgusting betrayal of the Cuban people, but it's not surprising and in fact adds a refreshing clarity to the situation -- who's for the Cuban people and who's for the regime.

theCardinal said...

no it is not surprising. I never expected much from the EUnuchs but I thought they would keep their word. These sanctions were symbolic but they were put in place because 70+ dissidents were jailed. I hoped but never thought that they would be lifted with the release of the 55 remaining jailed dissidents. It's not asking for much, that's all they had to ask for, but they couldn't even do that.

I understand that there have been some changes and they are welcome but you have to keep your eye on the ball and focus on what you asked for.

I always thought that Cuba would hold the prisoners for a bit and let them go in some sham bs deal but apparently that wont be the case - they really want to keep them locked up.

theCardinal said...

In case anyone missed the news the Cuban Gov't celebrated the lifting of EU sanctions by arresting 7 dissidents...Congrats!

Sharpshooter said...

Mr. Cardinal,
Did you expect the Europeans to behave otherwise? They still can see taht a Stalinist (Raul) is a Stalinist no matter how much the Euorpean Community wants to ignore it!
And on top of this, Castro I refers to them as a bunch of hipocrites!
What angers me the most, is that these so called Progressive Socialists such as Zapatero in Spain, would never tolerate to live in a regime like that on their own soil, but is Ok for Cubans to have one.
The Czechs are more sympathetic. Why? Is very simple. They have live through the ordeal of the communnist system and they know what is like inside.

Anonymous said...

The Spanish do not see Cubans as human beings but as colonial vassals. They only care about protecting their business interests in Cuba. They know they can't compete with the US on a level playing field so they are going to cut their deal with the capos in Havana. The problem for them is when the capos are gone...

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the strategy of political blocks such as the EU is to pursue their economic interests. Don't most of these countries, and the EU as a whole, stand to profit from increased economic cooperation with Cuba as the island moves into the next era? We know Spain has been very involved over the last 10+ years, and they were clearly leading the charge. The U.S. makes me laugh when the government follows an ideological line in 2008. We (U.S.) are not going to gain any influence or achieve anything positive by standing on the sidelines while the EU divies up Cuba's resources.
The U.S. must re-think Cuba policy; I have to say I think the fresh face of Obama is appropriate.