- Final -
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The economic, commercial, and ﬁnancial embargo imposed by the United States on Cuba has a damaging impact on the economic situation of the country and negatively aﬀects the living standards of the Cuban people. External trade and foreign investment can play a crucial role in setting the country on a path towards modernisation, reforms and sustainable growth, and help it overcome the economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The EU considers therefore that lifting the embargo could facilitate the opening of the Cuban economy to the beneﬁt of the Cuban people.
We acknowledge that the human rights situation in Cuba remains worrying, in particular as regards civil and political rights. We are concerned about that. We therefore reiterate our call on the Cuban Government to fully grant its citizens internationally recognised civil, political and economic rights and freedoms, including freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and free access to information, to ratify the UN Covenant for Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and to extend a standing invitation to all UN Special Procedures to visit Cuba. We also believe that empowering civil society is essential for the promotion and protection of all human rights, and call upon the Cuban Government to open spaces for a constructive and inclusive dialogue, without preconditions, with the whole spectrum of civil society actors on the island. A broad spectrum of civil society, both Cuban and European, should also be involved in the implementation of the EU-Cuba Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA).
The EU believes that positive change in Cuba is best brought about by closer engagement at all levels – government, economy, civil society, but also through people-to-people exchanges. We therefore deeply regret the introduction of additional restrictions on US relations with Cuba by the previous US Administration since the last resolution was passed on 7 November 2019. The measures further restricting travel, such as the elimination of the authorisation for travelling to Cuba for professional meetings, conferences and other public performances, curtail even further the possibility for engagement with the Cuban people. The re-designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism by the previous US Administration without presenting any new facts has introduced obstacles to international financial transactions with the island. Moreover, the embargo has restricted Cuba’s ability to import pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and other medical supplies needed for the combat against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beyond the damaging impact of the embargo on ordinary Cubans, US sanctions and other administrative and judicial measures are also negatively aﬀecting EU economic interests.
We have ﬁrmly and continuously opposed any such measures, due to their extraterritorial application and impact on the European Union, in violation of commonly accepted rules of international trade. We cannot accept that such measures impede our economic and commercial relations with Cuba.
The EU strongly rejects the US activation of Title III and IV of the Helms-Burton Act in April 2019. This breaches the commitments made by the US in the US-EU agreements of 1997 and 1998. We will draw on all appropriate measures to address the effects of the Helms-Burton Act, including in relation to our WTO rights and through the use of the EU Blocking Statute, which protects against the extra-territorial application of those US sanctions to EU citizens, businesses and NGOs operating in Cuba.
For the EU, international cooperation, dialogue and closer - even critical - engagement are the way to go with Cuba. The provisional application of the EU-Cuba Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA) is now in its fourth year. The agreement has put our bilateral relationship on a new and solid legal footing and sets out an agenda of critical engagement with Cuba that will also allow us to support and accompany Cuba on its path of reform and modernisation.
We are enhancing dialogue and cooperation also on issues on which we still have fundamental diﬀerences. To this end, the PDCA has established a human rights dialogue, as a key pillar of our relationship. The third formal meeting of the dialogue was held in February 2021.
Following the adoption of the country's new Constitution, and to overcome the current economic crisis, we call on Cuba to pursue a comprehensive reform and modernisation agenda, extending economic, judicial and social reforms and implementing them in a manner that will address the key concerns of the Cuban population, as well as meeting the legitimate aspirations of the Cuban people for more opportunities to participate in the shaping of the country's future.
With the EU-Cuba Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement, the EU oﬀers Cuba a consistent and reliable partnership to support it as it seeks to reform its political and economic model, to pursue sustainable development, and to ﬁnd common solutions to global challenges, while we continue to promote democracy and respect for human rights vigorously.
It is our considered view that the US embargo does not contribute to promoting these aims, but impedes their achievement. Against this background, the Member States of the European Union will vote unanimously in favour of the draft resolution.