MADRID – Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos on Monday asked the Cuban government for a “commitment” to respect human rights as a stimulus to allow Madrid to be able to convince its European Union partners to soften the bloc’s stance toward the communist-ruled island.
Moratinos repeated his wish of revising the bloc’s relationship with the Havana authorities at a press conference in Madrid with the EU’s top foreign policy official, Catherine Ashton, and Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim.
The Spaniard expressed the need to open the debate on how to relaunch relations with Cuba and to secure the “commitment” of Raul Castro’s government to upholding human rights on the island.
Moratinos said the EU’s so-called common position on Cuba, put into effect in 1996 at the insistence of then-Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, had furnished “not very satisfactory results” and thus a revision of that policy would be in order.
He expressed confidence that Ashton and the European leaders could be convinced to shift gears vis-a-vis Cuba, although the unanimity of the EU’s 27 member-states would be required to change the current policy, which links political dialogue with Cuba to advances in the area of democracy and freedom.
“The question is going to be discussed in the working groups and we’ll see what level of consensus can be reached on the European level. From there, the appropriate decisions will be taken,” he said.
Spain currently holds the rotating EU presidency.
Moratinos recalled that Ashton, in her Jan. 11 appearance before the European Parliament, showed herself to be open to revising the common policy, although she acknowledged that problems pertaining to the lack of freedom on the communist island continue to exist.
Spain is going to evaluate the willingness of the Cuban regime to introduce improvements in the area of human rights at the meeting that the two governments will hold in Madrid later this week.
This will be the fourth meeting within the scope of the dialogue mechanism, which was gotten under way after Moratinos’s trip to Havana in April 2007, a visit that opened a new phase in bilateral relations. EFE