Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

EU Cuba relations

Delivered in Plenary - September 3rd 2003

Mr President

Cuban-EU relations, which had been steadily improving in recent years, have recently been plunged into crisis by President Castro's arbitrary and provocative decisions to imprison 70 dissidents and human rights activists and carry out executions.

For a long time the Cuban Government has been able to blame all the country's woes on the American embargo. As soon as serious discussions take place on a possible relaxation of the embargo, the Cuban authorities engineer a provocation to scupper such developments.

These latest moves appear to be part of that pattern, albeit aimed at a European audience this time. Nevertheless Cuba cannot escape with impunity, and it is vital that we send a clear signal to the authorities that violations of fundamental rights, including a lack of medical care for prisoners, cannot be tolerated. Nor should Cuba be allowed to participate fully in the interparliamentary meetings between representatives of the European Union and Latin Americans, such as the Parlatino, as though it were a functioning democracy, whilst Castro's suggestion that EU humanitarian aid can only be given if it is distributed in a disguised fashion via other agencies is totally unacceptable.

Aid needs to be transparent. Cat-and-mouse games need to give way to a more reasoned dialogue in which ways are found to open up the country to change, whilst preserving some of the genuine achievements of the revolution.

I generally do not support the closing of European Community delegation missions abroad, so a small presence in Havana is useful. However, it is bizarre that we have an office there but not in some of our European neighbours - we do not have an office in Chisinau, Moldova, nor in Minsk in Belarus. The latter is another country where contact with human rights activists is also essential.