OpinionMeister

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Old Europe Beats New - EU to Appease Cuba

The New York Sun reports that the appeasers, led by Spain, defeated the hard liners, led by the Czech Republic, to extend the "temporary" suspension of sanctions against Cuba. Link.
The European Union decided yesterday not to restore diplomatic sanctions it imposed on the island in 2003, affording Mr. Castro a year of "constructive dialogue" before next reconsidering whether to ban high-level diplomats' visits to Cuba, open embassies in Havana to Cuban dissidents, and take other measures that have greatly irked Cuba's strongman.

The decision was issued at yesterday's External Relations Council meeting, a gathering of the foreign ministers of the 25 E.U. member states, in Luxembourg. It was the most recent development in a diplomatic saga that began in March 2003, when Mr. Castro rounded up and jailed 75 independent academics, journalists, and librarians, among other opponents, in what is known on the island as the "primavera negra," or "black spring."

In the aftermath of the crackdown, in June 2003, the E.U. responded with diplomatic sanctions on the island. Among other measures, the European Union suspended high-level diplomatic contact with Havana, and began inviting dissidents to celebrations of national holidays, where members of the opposition movement were afforded valuable access to representatives of the world's second largest economic power.

The Europeans' retaliation infuriated Mr. Castro, who promptly declared a "freeze" on his relations with the continent, posing difficulties for countries with economic interests on the island. That freeze thawed in January, when Spain - under the governing hand of the Socialist prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, and his foreign minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos - pushed the E.U. to lift the sanctions for a six-month trial period.

High-level diplomatic contact was reinstated, and dissidents were uninvited from the national holiday celebrations, with the hope that ending some of the E.U. practices bothersome to Mr. Castro would foment "constructive dialogue" with the regime in order to bring about reform.

Six months later, the E.U. has determined that even though "there was no satisfactory progress on human rights in Cuba," it remains willing "to maintain a constructive dialogue with the Cuban authorities, on a reciprocal and non-discriminatory basis ... with the aim of achieving tangible results with regard to human rights, democratization and the release of political prisoners." The E.U.'s diplomatic sanctions "remain suspended" until June 2006, when the union will next reconsider its common position.

In this respect, Zapatero is no different from the liberal Democrats. Both have never met a communist dictatorship that they didn't like. Can anyone imaging Chris Dodd, John Kerry or Ted Kennedy voting with the Czechs. This EU vote certainly passes Kerry's global test. But for a few electoral votes, this is where the US could have been.

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