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EU Lifts Restrictions on Cuba

The European Union will lift the already suspended 2003 measures on Cuba as a means to facilitate political dialogue with this country. This was agreed by the EU foreign ministers at a dinner organised on Thursday evening in Brussels on the margins of the European Council meeting and headed by the President of the General Affairs and External Relations Council, Foreign Minister of Slovenia Dr Dimitrij Rupel. The Council will formally confirm the decision at its next session, expected to be held next week. The issue was already on the agenda at the session of the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council on Monday in Luxembourg, but the ministers postponed it, especially due to a long discussion on the effects of the Lisbon Treaty referendum results in Ireland.

In the draft Conclusion agreed by the ministers, the Council acknowledged the changes undertaken so far by the Cuban Government and supported continuous liberalisation. In any event the Council called upon the Cuban Government to effectively improve the human rights situation by, among other activities, unconditionally releasing all political prisoners, including those who were detained and sentenced in 2003. It also called on the Cuban Government to facilitate access of international humanitarian organisations to Cuban prisons, stressing that this is a key priority in determining EU policy on Cuba. The Council further called upon Cuba to make real the international covenants on human rights to which it acceded.

The European Union confirms the position of 1986 to pursue dialogue with the Cuban authorities as well as with representatives of civil society and the democratic opposition in order to promote human rights and progress towards a pluralist democracy. The EU will offer all sectors of society practical support towards peaceful change. The EU Council also reiterated its call on the Cuban authorities to grant freedom of information and expression, including access to the Internet.

In addition, the European Union ministers wrote that the EU reinforces the right of Cuban citizens to decide independently about their future and remains ready to contribute positively to the future development of all sectors of Cuban society.

Since June 2007, preliminary discussions on the possibility of launching political dialogue have already been held. This dialogue will have to include the whole range of areas of cooperation, including politics, human rights, economy, science and culture, and will have to take place on a reciprocal, unconditional, non-discriminatory and results-oriented basis. Within the framework of this dialogue, the EU will outline its views on democracy, universal human rights and fundamental freedoms to the Cuban Government. During high-level visits, human rights issues will always be addressed; when appropriate, meetings with the democratic opposition will be part of high-level visits.

On this basis the ministers agreed to lift the measures against Cuba. In any case, relations with Cuba will be reviewed annually; in June 2009 the effectiveness of the political dialogue process will be reviewed as well. If the ministers agree that proper dialogue has been established, it will continue.


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Date: 27.06.2008