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Cuba and the : 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 () 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 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 assumed the EU presidency in 2010, two events dashed the
arrangement: Cuba refused entry to Spanish EU deputy Luis Yanez and the
Cuban Orlando 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 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 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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