Why the EU-Cuba agreement should be directly related to human rights
Trade always works better than diplomacy. Since antiquity, merchants and ‘businessmen’ have known better than politicians and diplomats about how to penetrate and forge lucrative relations in hostile lands.
Trade and their consequent relations always yield better results than sanctions and isolation.
In our day, politicians join the above concept and generally try not to ignore the human rights’ factor when working for bilateral agreements.
But in the case of EU-Cuba relations and recent developments, human rights were not so much the order of the day.
In fact, the European Parliament last week approved the EU-Cuba Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA).
It came as a surprise how the majority of MEPs did not include, in the official text, any reference concerning human rights in Cuba – a country with a long tradition of disrespect of democratic values and civic rights.
It was only after the liberals in the European Parliament raised the question that the majority also voted on an accompanying resolution aimed at addressing serious concerns over the violation of human rights in Cuba.
According to ALDE MEP Teresa Giménez Barbat (Spain), who is shadow rapporteur on Cuba, the implementation of the agreement must rely on Havana’s commitment to deal with a number of key issues. These include the recognition of the existence of political opposition and need of a process of political and economic transition towards democracy.
ALDE MEP Pavel Telička (ANO, Czech Republic), who is Vice-President of the European Parliament, added: “The human rights situation in Cuba is not getting any better; the number of political prisoners has doubled since last year. I believe this agreement will open a new chapter of EU-Cuba relations. However, I was disappointed with HRVP Mogherini at the plenary debate yesterday, who failed to make a single reference to the democratic opposition of Cuba, representing more than sixty independent entities, civil and political organizations both from Cuba and from the Cuban community in exile, who fight for the respect of human rights, democracy and economic prosperity in the country.” On the other hand, it wasn’t a surprise that some MEPs not only rejected the introduction of the additional point on human rights, but they defended the dictatorial regime of Havana.
GUE/NGL MEPs welcomed the signing of the agreement for cooperation between Cuba and the European Union, but condemned the European Parliament resolution that accompanied it.
According to co-shadow Rapporteur MEP, Javier Couso, the GUE/NGL voted in favour of the recommendation to approve the agreement, but voted against the report on the proposal for a non-legislative resolution.
“The first version drafted by the Rapporteur was balanced and positive, and all the political groups in the European Parliament would have supported it,” he said. “But unfortunately, some groups introduced changes that pervert the text and make it a resolution that aims to put pressure on Cuba to transition towards neoliberalism.” What a langue de bois! What a desolation from a political force that suffered thousands of losses in the fight against dictatorships. Cuba must be oppressed in order to democratise its political system, and must be closely observed by the EU to ensure there is an end to the torturing and imprisoning of anyone opposed to the Castro regime.
It is true that a trade agreement between the EU and a state with a one-party regime helps in the long-term to introduce democratic and liberal elements. It is also true that the first to benefit from such an agreement is the political elite of the country, the men of the regime.
It is without a doubt that they will be the first to enjoy any enrichment of the society and any growth of the economy.
But it is only fair that the society – not the political elite – takes something immediately as well. And this is directly connected to the respect of human rights. Our principles and our values do not permit us to ignore the fact that Cubans need our support to fight for freedom and democracy.