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    Cuba and the European Union – A Change of Tone and a New Dynamic

    Cuba and the European Union: A Change of Tone and a New Dynamic / Dimas
    Castellano
    Posted on March 10, 2014

    In a statement issued on Tuesday, February 11th, Rogelio Sierra Diaz,
    Cuba’s deputy foreign minister, reported that the Council of Foreign
    Ministers of the European Union (EU) had authorized the European
    Commission and the EU’s senior representative for foreign affairs and
    security policy, Catherine Ashton, to begin negotiations on a political
    dialogue and cooperation agreement with the Republic of Cuba. He added
    that “Cuba will consider the invitation from the Europeans in a
    respectful and constructive way and within the context of Cuba’s
    sovereignty and national interests.”

    This represents the possible start of negotiations on a bilateral
    agreement, which depends on the Cuban authorities’ willingness to accept
    the invitation. In this regard Catherine Ashton said, “I hope Cuba will
    take up this offer and that we can work towards a stronger
    relationship,” but added “the decision is not a policy change from the
    past,” which can be interpreted as a change of tone, not of substance.
    Meanwhile the EU ambassador to Cuba said that the policy is the same but
    there is “a new dynamic” and called the decision a “big step forward for
    a possible agreement,” adding that the agreement would “formalize
    cooperation at all levels on a firmer legal and policy basis.”

    Transitions towards democracy are dependent on both internal and
    external factors, with the latter assuming greater or lesser importance
    in relation to the strength or weakness of the former. In retrospect we
    can see that this has been exactly the case with Cuba.

    When revolutionary forces came to power in 1959, they became the source
    of all laws and led the country towards totalitarianism. The
    constitution of 1940 was replaced with the Fundamental Law of the Cuban
    State, which allowed the designated prime minister to assume the role of
    head of government and the recently created Council of Ministers to take
    over the functions of Congress. Subsequently, power became concentrated
    in the hands of the strongman and property in the hands of the state.
    Civil society was dismantled, and civil liberties and human rights were
    restricted. As a result Cubans were relieved of vital tools and
    opportunities for civil discourse, which meant losing their status as
    citizens.

    In 1996 the countries of the then European Community, which maintained
    bilateral relations with Cuba, established the Common Position in order
    to “encourage a process of transition to pluralist democracy, respect
    for human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as a sustainable
    recovery and improvement of the living conditions of the Cuban people.”
    That decision, which provided moral support to the island’s opposition,
    sharpened differences between the EU and the Cuban government. When the
    European Commission delegation took up residence in Havana in 2002, it
    welcomed Cuba’s request to sign on to the Cotonou Agreement (1), opening
    a new stage in bilateral relations. However, the imprisonment of 75
    peaceful dissidents in 2003 and the execution of three young men who
    attempted to commandeer a boat to escape the country led the European
    Union Council (2) to reaffirm that its Common Position remained valid
    and in force.

    In 2008, when hurricanes deepened the country’s internal crisis, the
    government signed an accord restoring relations with the EU and agreed
    to restart a political dialogue. The European Commissioner for
    Development and Humanitarian Aid and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of
    Cuba issued a statement announcing the decision, with the Spanish
    government playing a key role, repealing the Common Position. However,
    just as Spain assumed the EU presidency in 2010, two events dashed the
    arrangement: Cuba refused entry to Spanish EU deputy Luis Yanez and the
    Cuban political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo died the following month
    of a prolonged hunger strike.

    If the Cuban government were now to accept the EU’s offer, it would have
    to agree to a dialogue on the subject of human rights and proceed to
    reestablish what it should never have abolished in the first place.
    Interestingly, we are not operating under the same conditions as in the
    past, when then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Felipe Pérez Roque, said in
    reference to the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, “If the EU were
    to drop its insistence on a sterile and confrontational voting
    procedure, then Cuba would be inclined to sit down with the EU to work
    out a plan.” He added that Cuba “would feel a moral responsibility to
    abide by the European decision and would sign the Convention on
    Economic, Social and Cultural Rights the next day, indicating that we
    had entered a new stage in our relationship.”

    Judging from the words of Catherine Ashton, certain demands would have
    to be on the table for EU countries to agree to negotiations.

    She noted that, first, Cuban statutes would have to be brought into
    compliance with the United Nations Charter and all its instruments of
    international law such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
    Article 30 of this document states, “Nothing in this Declaration may be
    interpreted as conferring any rights to a state, group or person to
    engage in any activity or perform any act aimed at the destruction of
    any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.” It is a provision that
    for Cuba has special significance, as it was one of the sponsors of and
    signatories to this important document. Secondly, it would also have to
    ratify human rights conventions it signed 2008, which form the legal
    basis for the principle of personal dignity and guarantee that the
    planned changes will have a positive effect on Cuban society.

    To meet the first requirement, the Cuban government would have to halt
    political repression and summary imprisonment. EU countries would
    encourage exchanges with civil society so that Cubans might gradually
    emerge from the political margins to recover their status as citizens.
    This would help promote popular sovereignty so that Cubans might become
    the protagonists of their history and destiny.

    In addition to other issues on the table there should be a requirement
    that the soon-to-be drafted Labor Code once again include the right to
    form free trade unions and the right to freely hire workers, two things
    that were part of the Labor Legislation of 1938 and the Constitution of
    1940. Similarly, the new Investment Law should allow participation by
    Cuban nationals since the programs in which foreign investors are being
    invited to participate will be worthwhile only if Cubans benefit from
    these changes by having their rights restored. In the case of the Mariel
    Special Development Zone, the project will be of enormous benefit to the
    Cuban economy provided it helps lead to the country’s democratization.
    Otherwise, these steps will only strengthen the current economic and
    political model and condemn Cubans to continued civic, political and
    economic poverty.

    (1) A comprehensive partnership agreement between the EU and 79
    countries from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. Article 9,
    paragraph 2 states: “The Parties undertake to promote and protect all
    fundamental freedoms and human rights, whether civil and political or
    economic rights.”

    (2) Name for the European Community’s heads-of-state and
    heads-of-government summit, which takes place regularly, at least every
    six months.

    From Diario de Cuba

    14 February 2014

    Source: Cuba and the European Union: A Change of Tone and a New Dynamic
    / Dimas Castellano | Translating Cuba –
    http://translatingcuba.com/cuba-and-the-european-union-a-change-of-tone-and-a-new-dynamic-dimas-castellano/

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