CubaBrief: The EU-Cuba Pact and its negative impact for a democratic transition

The Baltic Times in their February 10, 2020 article “EU-Cuba pact pushes its way through Lithuanian parliament amid opposition“, reported on the debate surrounding the ratification of the agreement between the European Union and the Castro regime.  Lithuania is the last country needed to ratify the EU-Cuba pact, all the others have already done so. In the course of the exchange a number of issues arose that need to be addressed.

First and foremost the abandonment of the 1996 European Union Common Position on Cuba in 2016 delinked human rights considerations from normalization of relations and in practice abandoned independent Cuban civil society. The EU-Cuba pact’s ratification will be another step in the wrong direction.

Member of Parliament Zygimantas Pavilionis

Member of Parliament Zygimantas Pavilionis

Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats (HU-LCD) Parliament member Zygimantas Pavilionis during the debate said that by ratifying the agreement, Lithuania would betray “Cuban political prisoners.”  It will also contribute to propping up Maduro in Venezuela by funding Cuban repressors, and undermines Venezuelan democrats.

Yoaxis and Mario Felix of Patmos Institute

Yoaxis and Mario Felix of Patmos Institute

The Patmos Institute in their January 10, 2020 letter to the European Union highlighted the “systematic and increasing human rights violations of Cubans in and outside of the country” and the Castro regime’s “destabilisation efforts in Venezuela and Nicaragua.” Patmos makes the argument that “in the Venezuelan case, Cuba’s interference and responsibility is so evident that it would be enough of a reason to cancel any agreement.”

Roberto Jesús Quiñones Haces

Roberto Jesús Quiñones Haces

The European Union and Cuba’s Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement according to prisoner of conscience and independent journalist Roberto Jesús Quiñones Haces has coincided with tens of millions of Euros in cooperation for development or humanitarian aid that goes directly to the Castro regime. Quiñones  added that “taking into consideration that when the annual budget is approved by the National Assembly of the Popular Power, the people are never informed of the amount of money allocated for the Revolutionary Armed Forces and to the Minister of Interior Affairs. It is possible that part of that money has gone to those organisations that used as tools for repressing the independent civil society.”

Funds that go to the Castro regime’s military and secret police repress Cubans and are also used to fund Castro’s repressive agents in Venezuela. The EU’s Cuba is in contradiction with the EU’s Venezuela policy, and is undermining it.

The EU-Cuba pact beyond its negative material impact has also served to give ideological cover to the Castro dictatorship.

Rosa María Payá

Rosa María Payá

Rosa María Payá and Cuba Decide  in their January 2020 letter to the European Union cited the “EEAS’s 2016 Annual Human Rights and Democracy in the World report, which describes the island’s government regime with the following absurdity: ‘Cuba is a one-party democracy, with elections that are held at the municipal, provincial, and national level.’ That statement was repeated publicly by Ms. Mogherini during one of her visits to the island.” 

Rosa and Cuba Decide offer a critical assessment, observing that “the EEAS’s position, together with the fact that the European governments abandoned their earlier position of condemning human rights violations, of requiring democratic reforms in Cuba, and of keeping their embassies on the island open to the opposition and independent civil society as the EU’s Common Position on Cuba did in 1996, is being used by the Cuban government to attempt to legitimise its actions.”

In spite of this, Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius claimed that “the EU’s dialogue with Havana is aimed at weakening China and Russia’s influence in the region.” The argument made, which echoed the Obama Administration’s is that ” China and the Russian Federation, are very much active in that region and they are interested in keeping Cuba in their sphere of influence, and if the EU and Cuba don’t talk, it’s much easier for them to do that.”

U.S. engagement with Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela during the eight years of the Obama Administration did not reduce Russian or Chinese influence in Venezuela or the wider region, but the opposite occurred.

Nicaraguan strongman Daniel Ortega welcomed Putin to Nicaragua in 2014, purchased Russian tanks that arrived in Nicaragua in April 2016.

Following the December 17, 2014 announcement by President Obama that the two countries would normalize relations in January 2015 Russian spy ships were docked in Havana Harbor to send a message to U.S. diplomats arriving for high level discussions. Beginning in 2016, American and Canadian diplomats began suffering brain damage in what were described as health attacks, and led to a reduction in personnel

If Europe and the United States in the 1980s had applied this approach to the Iron Curtain then the Soviet Union would still be in power. It should not be a surprise that President Obama’s “reset with Russia” and expressed “flexibility” with Russian leadership coincided with the invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Roberto Jesús Quiñones Haces, who is now a prisoner of conscience, gave a concrete piece of advice to the European Union, ” to think a little bit more about the agents of change and to forget those who held back progress.”

The Baltic Times, February 10, 2020

EU-Cuba pact pushes its way through Lithuanian parliament amid opposition

BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – The European Union’s cooperation agreement with Cuba is pushing its way through the Lithuanian parliament amid resistance from the opposition.

The parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs last week backed the agreement’s ratification with the ruling parties’ votes, and representatives of the opposition conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats left the room in protest during the vote.

Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius says Lithuania, which is the last in EU yet to ratify the pact, is not its enthusiast but should also not block the agreement alone.

Representatives of the HU-LCD claim that by ratifying the document, Lithuania would serve the Communist Cuba regime, and it has also called on using the stalling process as leverage to seek the EU’s support on the Astravyets issue.

The Seimas is due to vote on the agreement’s ratification later.

During the document’s consideration at the parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, Linkevicius said the EU’s dialogue with Havana is aimed at weakening China and Russia’s influence in the region.

“Other countries, which are far from being democratic, like China and the Russian Federation, are very much active in that region and they are interested in keeping Cuba in their sphere of influence, and if the EU and Cuba don’t talk, it’s much easier for them to do that,” the minister said.

Linkevicius also underlined that countries actively raising human rights issues also see the benefit of cooperating with Cuba as a dialogue would be an opportunity to include the issue of political prisoners’ rights into the agenda.

HU-LCD member Zygimantas Pavilionis says, however, that by ratifying the agreement, Lithuania would betray both Cuban political prisoners and also their supporters in the US Congress.

The opposition party also called on the ruling parties to use the “Cuban card” in pursuit of the EU’s support regarding the Astravyets nuclear power plant under construction in Belarus, which Lithuanian deems unsafe.

The European Union and Cuba’s Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement was adopted in Brussels in 2016, being the first EU-Cuban agreement. Lithuania is the last EU member state which has not ratified the agreement yet.

International agreements are ratified by the Seimas.

https://www.baltictimes.com/eu-cuba_pact_pushes_its_way_through_lithuanian_parlt_amid_opposition/#