Recommendations for European Union’s policy towards Cuba
Berlin, Germany, April 2007
This paper is comprised of recommendations for the mid-term strategy of the European Union towards Cuba.
It was prepared by European NGOs that carry out projects in Cuba in support of independent civil society
and is thus based on their research on the island and interviews with civil society representatives. The paper
aims to contribute to the discussion on EU policy towards Cuba and enhance the dialogue on Cuban policy
between EU Member States, EU institutions, NGOs, and other relevant actors on the occasion of the
upcoming reevaluation of the Common Position of the EU towards Cuba.
In the last revision of the Common Position of 1996, the European Council confirmed the
further deterioration of the human rights situation in Cuba and decided to start working on a
mid-term and long-term strategy. The presenters of this paper welcome this decision and
believe that a reasonable strategy will enable the EU to assist Cuba in a peaceful transition
towards democracy and a free society.
In its Common Position the EU pledges to facilitate peaceful change in Cuba and promote
respect for human rights by intensifying the dialogue with the government and “all sectors of
Cuban society.”1 The process of reflection over the EU policy towards Cuba has not
brought any visible results so far. Since the last revision of the Common Position in June
2006 there were attempts by the two presidency countries to propose new strategies with
more concrete measures to be taken by the EU member states with the aim of supporting
democratic forces in Cuba. However, not all EU member states are open to discussion over
common EU policy because it interferes with their bilateral relations with Cuba and with
their economic interests.
New developments on the island with the succession of power from Fidel Castro to his
brother Raśl, show that the regime is ready to hold on to its power even after the demise of
Fidel. This would most probably preserve the totalitarian regime, and for Cubans, a life
without respect for their basic rights and freedoms. The European Union should, through its
re-defined Common Position, send clear signals to the political, military and economic elites
in Havana that it will not tolerate the continuance of this oppressive regime and it will not
engage in cooperation until the Cuban regime makes significant changes towards democracy
and rule of law.
1 96/697/CFSP: Common Position of 2 December 1996 defined by the Council on the basis of Article J.2 of
the Treaty on European Union, on Cuba, http://europa.eu.int/eurlex/
The European NGOs submitting this paper would like to offer their experience of working
with Cuban independent civil society and monitoring the situation on the island, and thus
suggest that the future EU strategy should be based on the following areas:
(1) MEASURES TOWARDS THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT
The EU should:
a) Maintain pressure regarding the release of political prisoners and respect for
The Cuban government has not respected any demands for the release of political
prisoners and respect for human rights set as conditions by the EU for further
negotiations concerning EU-Cuba relations. The overall human rights situation has
worsened over the past year as reported by many international organizations. Any
further cooperation with future Cuban leaders must be only entered into with the
pre-condition of the release of political prisoners.
b) Insist on a visit of Javier Solana’s Special Representatives for Human Rights
This visit should be made with the goal of meeting the representatives of civil
society, as well as raising human rights concerns with the Cuban government.
c) Demand that the new heads of the regime organize free and fair elections
with the presence of international observers
As recent developments on the island show, the succession of power from Fidel
Castro to his brother and Minister of Defense Raśl Castro is the scenario the regime
is slowly pushing through. There is no doubt that this succession would preserve the
totalitarian nature of the regime and oppression against the Cuban people who have
had no possibility to decide if this is the fate they want for their country.
d) Targeted visa ban applied to Cuban officials directly responsible for human
Pressure on the government to respect human rights should be complemented by
targeted measures. In particular, they should be considered with regard to top Cuban
officials, for example judges and prosecutors involved in the trials of human rights
activists and members of State security apparatus.
(2) SUPPORT FOR INDEPENDENT CIVIL SOCIETY IN CUBA
The EU should:
e) Support independent civil society by providing funding for their projects and
Emerging civil society movements exist in Cuba that are able to partly evade the
omnipresent state imposed control and survive its repressions. These movements are
key to peaceful changes in Cuba. They cannot survive without support from the
international democratic community.
f) Appoint an EU Special Envoy for Transition and Democracy
The EU should appoint a Special Envoy to Cuba who, with the help of an advisory
body comprised of experts on Cuba and transition to democracy in communist and
totalitarian regimes, would assess the key actors in transformation, design different
alternatives for the strategy based on similar experiences in other regions and
propose specific steps to be taken to implement this strategy.
g) Encourage the dissemination in Cuba of information on the experience of
transition to democracy from EU member states
Many EU member states have gone through successful transitions from totalitarian
regimes to democracy; they are willing to share their experiences with Cubans. There
are numerous publications on European transitions to democracy that analyze the
different aspects of transitions and compare the steps taken in each country. The EU
should encourage the dissemination of such information through their missions.
h) Provide increased access for the free flow of information
Every mission in Cuba of an EU Member State should be encouraged to have
computers with internet connection accessible for members of civil society. A
selection of European newspapers, magazines and recently published books should
also be made available. At least some of these publications should be available in
i) Take a more active role, through the European Commission (EC)
Delegation in Havana, to further develop civil society
As the representative of the European Union, the EC Delegation should take a
leading role in promoting human rights, including through the support of projects,
and intensify its contacts with independent civil society. It should be actively
involved in the above-mentioned recommendations e, g, and h.
j) Ensure the full implementation by all EU representations, including
member state missions and the EC Delegation, of the EU Guidelines on
Human Rights Defenders
Human rights defenders report that different member states’ missions implement the
guidelines to varying degrees. This has led to confusion among the human rights
community in Cuba about EU policy regarding human rights defenders, as well as to
a decreased level of protection. The EU representation should take a proactive role
in ensuring that Cuban human rights community is aware of the guidelines through
dissemination and capacity building.
k) Emphasize Symbolic Elements of EU Policy towards Cuba
The opposition and Cuban citizens should know that they are internationally
supported and that they are not alone. New symbolic measures should be
implemented by EU diplomats in Havana – for example, personal visits to the
families that have been subjected to an act of repudiation and to the leaders of the
independent civil society movements. They should also invite civil society
representatives to all public events organized by EU Embassies.
(3) WORKING IN INTERNATIONAL ARENA
The EU should:
l) Work towards a common approach on Cuba with other international actors
If European policy is to be effective, it is important to find common ground with
other relevant international actors, such as the US, UN and the countries of Latin
Despite apparent differences in their policies, there are already many shared
elements. Common ground is a necessity for a peaceful transition and there are many
similarities in the policies.
International Helsinki Federation
Christian Solidarity World Wide
People in Need
Asociacion Iberoamericana por la Libertad
International Society for Human Rights
Christian Democratic International Center
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung
People in Peril Association
Fundacion Hispano Cubana
(NGOs wishing to show their support of this text may have their names added to the list.
Please contact Jiri Knitl, +420 777 787 924 or firstname.lastname@example.org)