Check against delivery!
Thank you Mrs President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,
Let me reply to your interventions on behalf of the European Commission and replacing High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell.
The protests of 11 July, with the participation of thousands, were the largest seen in Cuba for over 25 years.
They reflect legitimate grievances about the lack of food, medicines, water and power. The Covid epidemic has severely impacted the Cuban economy already in dire need of structural reforms.
But apart from economic reasons, there was also a political dimension, even though opposition groups became involved only after the initial wave of the people protesting. Citizens were demanding freedom of expression, freedom of the press, increased demands for civil and political rights, and democracy.
The European Union has unequivocally supported the right of Cuban citizens to express their views and demand change, both physically and online. We are very concerned about the repression of these protests, and the arrest of protesters and journalists. We call on the authorities to respect human rights, to respect universal freedoms, to release arbitrarily detained prisoners and engage in inclusive dialogue on the grievances of its citizens. We are also concerned about the effects of the new cyber legislation that concerns human rights, or its effects on human rights.
It is not easy to find a solution to the current situation. But what is clear is that thorough economic reforms are required. As indicated in the Declaration by High Representative Josep Borrell on behalf of the European Union, the EU stands ready to support all efforts to improve the living conditions of Cubans, in the context of our partnership under the EU-Cuba Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement. It is our belief that we need to continue to talk to each other. Our previous policy, the common position of our 1996 did not reap results.
Some elements for solutions are there. Last summer, Havana outlined further steps towards market liberalisation. The EU has consistently offered to support the reforms. We are already implementing cooperation programmes in economic reforms, renewable energy, environment/climate change, and sustainable agriculture. In the future, we stand ready to pursue this, and also to work on promoting citizens' rights, in areas such as administrative decentralisation, transparency in the functioning of public institutions, promoting non-discrimination, or addressing gender violence.
We will also continue to apply our policy of constructive engagement, demanding full respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms and promoting and supporting economic reforms.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-210417