I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the EFTA country Liechtenstein, member of the European Economic Area, align themselves with this statement.
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. The recovery and reconstruction after the devastation wrought by Hurricane Irma this autumn could also be hampered. External trade and foreign investment will play a crucial role in setting the country on a path towards sustainable growth, therefore the EU considers that lifting the embargo could facilitate the opening of the Cuban economy to the benefit of the Cuban people.
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 that the new US Administration has announced its intention to reintroduce restrictions on US relations with Cuba: the proposals to restrain individual self-directed travel would not only curtail the possibility for engagement with the Cuban people, but would also hit Cuba’s burgeoning private sector, which has benefitted the most from such individual visits.
Beyond the damaging impact of the embargo on ordinary Cubans, unilateral US sanctions and other unilateral administrative and judicial measures are also negatively affecting EU economic interests.
We have firmly and continuously opposed any such measures, due to their extraterritorial impact on the European Union, in violation of commonly-accepted rules of international trade. We cannot accept that unilaterally-imposed measures impede our economic and commercial relations with Cuba. The EU’s Council of Ministers therefore adopted a regulation and a joint action to protect against undue interference and problems for EU citizens, businesses and NGOs residing, working or operating in Cuba.
It is crucial that the United States continues to fully respect and implement the agreement reached at the summit between the European Union and the United States held in London in May 1998. This agreement covers waivers to titles III and IV of the Helms-Burton Act, a commitment by the US Government to resist future extraterritorial legislation of that kind, and an understanding regarding disciplines for the strengthening of investment protection.
For the EU, opening doors and closer engagement are the way to go with Cuba. Today, we celebrate the start of provisional application of the EU-Cuba Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement signed last year. It will 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 will enhance dialogue and cooperation also on issues on which we still have fundamental differences. To this end, the PDCA establishes a human rights dialogue, as a key pillar of our relationship.
We 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, following the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on human trafficking, extend invitations to other rapporteurs to visit Cuba.
In contrast with Cuban achievements in healthcare and education, the slow progress of economic modernisation seriously hampers Cuban economic development. In this context, we call for economic and social reforms to be extended and implemented in a manner that will address the key concerns of the Cuban population.
With the EU-Cuba Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement, the EU offers Cuba a consistent and reliable partnership to support it as it seeks economic and social reforms, sustainable development, and common solutions to global challenges while the EU continues to promote democracy and respect for human rights.
It is our considered view that the US embargo does nothing to promote these aims, but impedes their achievement. Against this background, the Member States of the European Union unanimously voted in favour of the draft resolution.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.