LUXEMBOURG – Spain’s foreign minister announced on Monday that the European Union will delay a decision on the course of policy toward Cuba pending further results from talks between the Havana government and the Catholic Church that have already led to the release of one political prisoner.
Miguel Angel Moratinos said that there was unanimity among the 27 EU foreign ministers not to conclude the matter on Monday during the annual review of the bloc’s relationship with Cuba.
He also said that he had received the mandate of Spain’s EU partners to continue dialogue with Havana with an eye toward achieving a new outcome in September and, if conditions are right, scrapping the bloc’s “common position” toward Cuba, which makes warmer relations with the communist-ruled island contingent on its progress in human rights.
Spain had hoped to change the bloc’s Cuba policy during its six-month term in the EU rotating presidency, which ends June 30.
At a press conference at the end of the foreign ministers meeting in the Luxembourg capital, Moratinos said that the decision had been made “on the basis of this new dialogue between the Catholic Church and Cuba and (because of) the measures that are being taken, and to permit the process that’s developing at this time to be successful.”
“I asked my colleagues,” he said, “given this new political and diplomatic logic, not to adopt positions and conclusions at this time. Let us give ourselves a reasonable time to judge what the results are – in the coming weeks and months – of this dialogue effort that we’re maintaining with the Cuban authorities.”
The EU foreign ministers will take another look at the situation in September, the Spaniard said.
“I hope, I’m convinced, that (a decision will be made) to overcome the common position and initiate the establishment of the new bilateral framework between the EU and Cuba,” Moratinos emphasized.
The EU adopted the common position on Cuba in 1996 at the urging of then-Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, a conservative.
Since taking office in April 2004, the Socialist government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has worked to improve Madrid’s relations with Havana while trying to persuade Spain’s EU partners to follow suit.
Spain now says the EU should replace its unilateral stance toward Cuba with a genuinely bilateral relationship, but without abandoning the goals of fostering democracy and respect for human rights on the island.
But Madrid’s effort to soften the common position has been thwarted by opposition from Germany, France, the Czech Republic and Sweden.
Moratinos also said that he had received the mandate from the EU to keep up the dialogue with Cuban authorities and continue to push the contacts between the Raul Castro government and the Catholic Church, which so far have brought about several concrete measures.
He recalled that recently these efforts had led to the release of an ailing political prisoner and the transfer of six other jailed dissidents to prisons closer to their families. EFE