EU Australia Online - News & information from the capital of Europe direct to Australian businesses

Cautious Nod To Cuba – Signs Of Change

  • June 20th, 2008
  • Posted by 7thmin

european-council-media-reduced19608.jpgEurope’s political chiefs have signaled their interest in having a stronger, united voice in foreign affairs, in a new move to ease sanctions against Cuba.

The European Union has conditionally lifted restrictions on diplomatic relations with the communist republic, demonstrating a drive for joint foreign policy moves that it intends to take further, under proposed reforms in its decision-making system.

Those reforms, to create the office of a Vice President for external relations, are included in the Lisbon Treaty currently going through a ratification process – and held up because of its rejection at a referendum in Ireland, a week ago.

The decision was made on Cuba, on Thursday (19.6.08) by Foreign Ministers attending the EU heads of government summit, in Brussels.

The then European Community imposed its diplomatic sanctions in 2003 after a wave of gaolings of Cuban dissidents.

High level visits by government officials were banned and opposition leaders were recognised by European embassies.

Such measures were suspended unofficially three years ago, but now will be lifted fully, and cancelled altogether in a year’s time – subject to improvements taking place in Cuba’s human rights record.

Europe will be demanding the release political prisoners.

The change of course was expected to aggravate relations with the Unites States, and demonstrate implications for a strong, more unified European stance on many issues.

The EU sanctions never went as far a economic measures like the American embargo on trade with Cuba.,

Nineteen of the 27 European Union states have ratified the Lisbon Treaty, and  the EU leaders at Brussels this week have agreed to wait for the Irish government to report fully on where it will stand, after the “no” referendum, at a new summit this October.

Picture:  European summit Brussels, media centre