Cuba and EU dialogue: five empty chairs show serious shortcomings

February 9, 2020

Cuban human rights defenders who participated to the project of presenting a report on EU’s agreement with Cuba. [Civil Rights Defenders]

The EU needs to change strategy if it wishes to stand for democracy in Cuba by opening up to independent civil society, write Anders L. Petersson and Erik Jennische (of the NGO Civil Rights Defenders) on 4 February 2020. On Saturday 1 February. five Cuban democracy activists were stopped at the airport in Havana as they were on their way to Brussels to speak at the European Parliament today. They were banned from leaving the country by the Cuban authorities. Instead, the seminar at the European Parliament was held with Cuban activists based outside the country, and five empty chairs – a vivid reminder of the current strategy’s shortcomings. [Instituto Patmos has shown that at least 226 activists were banned from travelling abroad during 2019]. The five democracy activists were supposed to present their ideas on what the EU could do to promote respect for human rights and democratisation in the country. Their proposals form part of a report by Civil Rights Defenders – a total 30 letters from Cuban democracy activists and organisations – as a contribution to the EU’s policy development.

Although the EU and Cuba in their Agreement recall “their commitment to the recognised principles of democracy”, Civil Rights Defenders regrets that the EU remained silent on the sham elections and the transfer of power that followed. Apparently, it was all acceptable under the new Agreement…..When Federica Mogherini visited Cuba for the last time as High Representative for Foreign Affairs in September 2019, she rather perplexingly concluded that “after completing its generational transition and adopting a new Constitution, Cuba now faces major challenges in carrying out its economic modernization”.

….Reflecting on the stories of harassed and imprisoned activists in Cuba, we cannot afford to make such surrender again. The EU needs to change strategy if it wishes to stand for democracy in Cuba. It needs to build a formal and open dialogue with Cuba’s independent civil society. Since the negotiations began on the Agreement in the spring of 2014, the EU has not invited civil society to a single formal discussion on the content of the Agreement or its implementation. When the EU and Cuba held its human rights dialogue in October 2019, the Cuban government took the liberty to decide which European and Cuban organisations could participate. The papers in the report of CRD hold a great number of proposals and ideas – the two core messages being:

  • That both European and Cuban civil societies need to be recognised as formal partners to the EU in its relations to Cuba.
  • That the EU needs to speak out on the absence of democracy in Cuba and denounce all human rights violations.

The EU can never contribute to positive change in Cuba via a dialogue with the Cuban government. The only way is to give legitimacy and support to the civil society that openly and peacefully supports democratisation. It is time for the EU to include civil society in its relations with Cuba.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/15/new-rule-of-law-and-human-rights-in-cuba-and-venezuela-and-eu-engagement/

One of the award-winning Cuban dissident who was detained this week announced that he has been released without charge but barred from a planned trip to Europe for a meeting on human rights. Guillermo Farinas, a 58-year-old psychologist, is a leading voice in the opposition to Cuba’s communist government and won the European Parliament’s Sakharov human rights prize in 2010. Farinas was arrested Tuesday in the central city of Santa Clara, where he lives, as he planned to go to the Spanish Embassy in Havana to pick up travel documents. He had been due to take part in a meeting of the human rights commission of the European Parliament. “The main reason for my arrest was to keep me from traveling to Europe,” Farinas told AFP.

In the meantime a number Cuban and latin solidarity groups in Belgium had a quite different view: “Campaign by MEPs against Cuba rejected in Belgium. Another instance of the Empire’s vulgar and interfering policy of subversion and discredit against the Cuban Revolution. Cuba is sovereign and independent, we won’t yield to anyone”. http://www.cubadebate.cu/noticias/2020/02/04/rechazan-en-belgica-nueva-campana-contra-cuba-de-eurodiputados/#.XjsNg2q23cd 


Five empty chairs remind of Cuba’s regime true nature

https://www.france24.com/en/20200207-cuban-dissident-freed-but-cannot-leave-country

https://www.euronews.com/2020/02/07/cuban-activists-blocked-from-attending-eu-meeting

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