EU-Cuba: Challenges ahead - along with rewards

Written by Anders Vistisen on 11 July 2017 in Opinion

A closer relationship with Cuba can be beneficial to trade, investment and human rights issues, says Anders Vistisen.

Anders Vistisen | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

Parliament last week voted on the political dialogue and cooperation agreement (PDCA) with Cuba. For Cuba, at an uncertain point in its bilateral relations with the US, the European Union can offer stability at a critical moment; access to the single market, free trade and foreign investment can revitalise and invigorate the Cuban economy and benefit society at all levels. 

Better relations with the EU can be a stepping stone toward opening US-Cuba relations to the possibility of better dialogue and a step back from the isolation that has characterised recent bilateral relations. So for Cuba, the way forward in its relations with the EU is potentially very rewarding. 

The ECR group supports strengthening ties with Cuba through fostering better communication, improved cooperation and closer relations in trade and investment. However, an improvement in relations with Cuba must be underscored by a real and tangible improvement in the state of human rights and fundamental liberties for its citizens.

The state of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cuba still bears much to improve. To this end, a more open channel needs to be established for better analysis and a more vigorous look at the state of human rights in Cuba as they exist today. 

Reports from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International continue to surface of government critics, political activists and human rights defenders being subject to arbitrary arrest, short-term detention, and even more severe forms of harassment and intimidation.

Human rights groups report the oppression of religious groups and smear campaigns against religious leaders and communities. These allegations are deeply concerning. Among other things, the ECR group calls for the churches in Cuba to be given their freedom so that, as recognised institutions, they can develop social welfare activities and they can receive welfare assistance from churches from the EU and other parts of the world without state interference.

The way ahead for Cuba promises to be challenging, yet potentially very rewarding. Positive relations with the EU will have numerous benefits for the country's economy, with access to the single market and unlocking the prospect of foreign investment, as well as improving its relations with global and regional partners.

However, it is crucial that this builds upon a real and genuine commitment by the Cuban government to improve the state of democracy and fundamental human rights, and targeting the source of the worrying allegations that have arisen in recent years. 

The EU can offer Cuba a valuable avenue for dramatically improving the way of life of its citizens and greatly improving its position on the global stage. The first step on this bright path, however, must come from the Cuban government.


About the author

Anders Vistisen (DK) is Parliament's ECR group shadow rapporteur on the political dialogue and cooperation agreement between the EU and Cuba

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