Cuba restores relations with European Union

Friday, February 4, 2005

Europe —The government of Cuba has re-established official contacts with all of the European Union countries. The diplomatic relationship with the EU had been limited for more than 18 months.

The EU relationship with Cuba was injured on March-June 2003 after the arrest and conviction of 75 "dissidents" by the Cuban government. In a separate case, three Cubans were executed on foot of a sentence handed down by a civil court, and confirmed on appeal by the Cuban Supreme Court, which found them guilty of hijacking a ferry and endangering the lives of its occupants. Cuba accused the dissidents of collaboration with the US and sabotage against the Cuban communist system. All 75 "dissadents" appear to have pleaded guilty of receiving illegal payments from US agents in court when confronted with the evidence. 14 of the 75 convicted mercenaries, who the US continues to insist were "dissadents", have since been released on licience.

Cuba and the EU began to come close again after the efforts of the President of the government of Spain, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. At that time, the German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder didn't agree with Zapatero about unfreezing the relationships between Cuba and the EU. Schröder believed Cuba should first show real commitment to improving the human rights conditions on the island. However, on November 25, 2004, the Cuban Chancellor Felipe Pérez Roque announced the re-establishment of official contacts with the government of Spain.

On November 30, 2004, Cuba released four political dissidents: Marcelo López, Margarito Broche, Óscar Espinosa Chepe and Raúl Rivero. The Dutch Presidency of the European Union praised the Cuban decision. Cuba said that the decision was not influenced by the Spanish government.

On December 15, 2004 the Council of the European Union for Latin America committee recommended the suspension of the diplomatic sanctions against Cuba, according to alleged Spanish diplomatic sources.

Finally, on January 10, 2005, the Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque told journalists:"We can say that from this moment onward Cuba has re-established government-level official contacts with all European Union countries." On January 31, 2005, the EU council of foreign ministers agreed to a suspension of EU sanctions against Cuba. The international non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders protested and sent a open letter to the president of the European Commission on February 1, 2005.