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Berlin conference calls for solidarity and common policy toward Cuba

2007-05-04 / Nikola Horejs

The international conference entitled "Democracy in Cuba: Seeking Common Initiatives," that took place in Berlin on April 25 and 26, hosted more than 200 participants from over 23 countries. Political leaders, representatives of the Cuban opposition, and human rights NGOs all expressed their wishes to find a common policy promoting democracy in Cuba. In a joint statement, the participating NGOs voiced their support to the unity of Cuban opposition. (See the statement here.)

In the opening address, Václav Havel said: "Everything that serves to support democracy and freedom in the world should be given attention. I would like to stress the importance of solidarity in today's world. I myself spent five years in prison; if it wasn't for the solidarity of people abroad, it could have been fifteen."

The conference was held under auspices of two German Members of Parliament, Arnold Vaatz and Markus Meckel. In a press conference, Meckel, MP for the Social Democratic Party, stressed that the purpose of the conference was to hear different opinions and discuss the issue across political party lines. Arnold Vaatz, MP for CSU/CDU, said that all participants coming to the conference should insist that there be a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba.

Luis Alberto Lacalle, the former President of Uruguay, proposed a common fund for reconstruction and development of post-totalitarian Cuba entitled "Plan Martí”. "We do not want to substitute decisions of Cubans themselves. We want to give them opportunity to take those decisions," said Lacalle.

A recent visit to Cuba by the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs was also discussed. Jorge Moragas, an MP for the Spanish Popular Party, said that, in fact, no prisoners had been released as a result of the visit; rather, those prisoners released subsequent to the visit were due to be released anyway under the terms of their sentences.

In his special message to the conference, Lech Walesa wrote: "In Poland, former enemies could sit together at the same round table. I wish in Cuba that they could do the same." Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Prime Minister of Spain José María Aznar sent messages of support as well. The conference continued with video messages from prominent Cuban dissidents Oswlado Payá, Vladimiro Roca and Martha Beatriz Roque.

Other guests at the conference included Karel Schwarzenberg, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic; Rexhep Meidani, the former President of Albania; Gunter Nooke, the Comissioner for Human Rights of the German Federal Government; Caleb McCarry, Coordinator for Assistance to a Free Cuba from the US State Department; Peter Weiss and Daniel Lipsic, Members of Parliament; Julio Borges, the president of the Venezuelan Primero Justicia party and Bernard Vogel, the President of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

A group of participating NGOs put together a policy recommendations for the EU's policy toward Cuba. They also voiced support to the unity of Cuban opposition and called upon political leaders to embrace it. "Concerning democracy and human rights in Cuba, all speakers expressed conviction that the EU states and countries in Americas have more things in common, than those that divide them," said Kristina Prunerová. Secretary of International Committee for Democracy in Cuba, the main organizer of the event.

For more information please contact
Nikola Horejs
Press coordinator
Tel.: +420 777 787 691

Background notes:

The Berlin Conference intended to provide a platform for dialogue to work towards a common approach from the EU, Latin America and the USA on the situation in Cuba. Currently the future of democracy in Cuba is not clear and the EU is not united in its approach towards the current regime. Individual panel discussions addressed the following themes:

• Who will play the main role in a possible transformation?
• How can the international actors respond proactively?
• What can the response of EU member states be? What are the results of their current policies?
• How can the EU, Latin America and the USA find a common approach toward Cuba?

The conference was organized by the International Committee for Democracy in Cuba (ICDC) in cooperation with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

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