Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

EU calls truce in 'cocktail war' with Cuba

National Post (Canada) - 1 February 2005

The European Union moved to end a diplomatic dispute with Cuba yesterday by suspending a policy of inviting dissidents to national day celebrations at members' Havana missions in protest at the island's human rights record.

The "cocktail war" blew up when Europe decided to invite opponents of the communist government to embassy parties to signal disapproval of a crackdown on dissent in 2003. President Fidel Castro snubbed European diplomats in return. Since then Cuba has released some of a group of 75 political prisoners and this month restored diplomatic ties with eight EU states. But critics say Cubans still suffer human rights abuses and have sought to resist any thaw in relations with the EU. Ex-communist states Poland and the Czech Republic are among the fiercest opponents of a thaw, and former Czech President Vaclav Havel wrote an article in the French daily Le Figaro on Friday condemning the move.

"European embassies in Havana will now draw up their invite list according to the wishes of the Cuban government," he wrote. "I cannot find a better way for the European Union to destroy its noble ideal of liberty, equality and respect for human rights." British Conservative Charles Tannock called the move an appeasement of Mr. Castro, and said he and more than 100 members of the European Parliament would formally complain to the EU's Executive Commission.