Saturday, March 21, 2009

EU expresses interest in mending Cuba relations

EU expresses interest in mending Cuba relations
Written by Larry Moonze in Havana, Cuba
Saturday, March 21, 2009 8:18:56 AM

THE European Union has said it is interested in establishing triangular relations comprising Cuba-EU and Africa.

EU Commissioner for development and humanitarian aid Louis Michel said on Thursday that the EU and Cuba's relations had improved significantly.

"The relations are very dynamic and I am convinced that a change in the EU common position policy towards Cuba would create the conditions for increased, fruitful and mutually beneficial cooperation and exchange," Michel said.

He said he was witness to Cuba's internationalist cooperation particularly with Africa and East Timor.

"The doctors are doing a wonderful job and I ask that we develop triangular relations involving Cuba-EU and Africa and other countries," Michel said.

He said under the new exchanges, the EU and Cuba were developing new structures of development cooperation.

He announced the release of 7.5 million euros in addition to the four million euros donated last year for hurricane relief.

Michel said the emergency relief aid would go to six provinces most hit by three hurricanes of last year.

"We are also aware that today's world is not the same as yesterday," he said. "Nobody today is immune from the financial crisis, developed and developing countries are affected."

Michel said food production was crucial now that commodity prices were high.

He said the EU believed that the framework of relations were more important than the money it offered in aid.

Michel, who on Wednesday held discussions with Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez, said the EU was excited about continued exchanges with Cuba especially on human rights issues.

He said a new space had opened and that Cuba was open to discuss issues about its prisons.

"There are different areas in human rights and others that should be discussed in the framework of mutual respect," he said. "We are not obliged to share the same ideas and impressions but it is important that the platform for an open dialogue is not closed."

However, Rodriguez said the penitentiary system was entirely an internal issue.

"We have not established nor expressed any position about the penitentiary system because we believe that is under the internal jurisdiction of the [Cuban] state," Rodriguez said. "I consider Commissioner Michel a serious and responsible person."

He said EU-Cuba bilateral ties, political, had improved significantly on the principles of the UN Charter of mutual respect and non-interference in the internal affairs of nations.

Rodriguez said it was the 1996 EU's common policy position towards Cuba perpetrated by then Spanish leader Jose Maria Aznar deemed as interventionist that constituted a serious obstacle to the development of frank and open bilateral political dialogue with the island.

And Rodriguez said the five Cubans held in US prisons were evidence of political prisoners.

He said the five had not committed crime or endangered the US by infiltrating groups that perpetrated terror activities in Cuba.

Rodriguez said the five Cubans were inhumanely treated. He called on the US Supreme Court to take position on the matter.

Rodriguez said the US used its territory for terror activities against Cuba.

"But we are sure no matter what happens they will come back home," said Rodriguez.

Meanwhile, Cuban foreign investment and foreign trade minister Rodrigo Malmierca said delegations from Cuba and the EU were meeting in Havana to study development cooperation structures and identify strategies.

He said one such key aspect was food security and effective use of available resources.

Malmierca said Cuba would strengthen its relations with the EU, based on mutual respect and free of preconditions.

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