HAVANA – Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos on Monday promised Cuba that he would lobby the European Union to eliminate the “common position” that irritates Havana, because it demands democracy and respect for human rights on the communist-ruled island.
Moratinos arrived over the weekend on an official visit during which he has had several meetings with Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez, and shortly before leaving on Monday he was received by President Raul Castro.
Moratinos and Rodriguez said that they were satisfied with the strengthening of bilateral relations, which were normalized in 2007 during the first visit by the Spanish minister, who promised to help improve links between the island and the EU.
However, according to Spanish sources, Moratinos told Cubans that the “common position” approved in 1996 on the urging of then-Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, was agreed to unanimously and must be withdrawn in the same way, which is not an easy task at the present time.
Cubans say that it seems to be a contradiction that Havana has normalized its relations with Latin America and is doing so at present with the United States – at least in the areas of immigration and postal service – but the EU is maintaining an obstacle in place such as the “common position.”
Moratinos discussed all the issues he brought on his agenda to the island, including human rights, Cuba’s outstanding debt to Spain and the situation of Spanish firms on the island, which have been affected by the Havana government’s acute lack of liquidity, according to diplomats who attended the meetings.
They said he also discussed the case of a Spanish industrialist under arrest in Cuba, Pedro Hermosilla.
Moratinos insisted that his second visit to Cuba is a sign of the “normality” of relations between the two countries and both sides confirmed that bilateral links had been strengthened.
“It is deeply satisfying to me to receive you knowing that this visit will provide and is providing the impulse to bilateral relations, which have had a positive development in recent years,” said the host foreign minister at the beginning of the meetings.
“That was the main objective since we came into the government in 2004: recovering that deep, intense relationship between Cuba and Spain,” Moratinos said.
He also said that the new policy of the Spanish government headed by Socialist Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has already had “results” with the resumption of Spanish aid to Cuba, which has climbed from 17 million euros ($25.36 million) in 2007 to 34 million euros ($50.7 million) this year, and will continue growing.
“On my second visit, I can note how much we have to work together, how relations have been improving in a substantial way based on mutual respect, trust, on the will to mutually help one another, and to advance in what is a deep, historic relationship with enormous potential,” he added.
Spanish aid to Cuba over the past 12 months has included funding to rebuild and repair schools, hospitals and homes battered by three hurricanes in 2008, as well as an initial 36 tons of emergency relief supplies.
Around 40 percent of Madrid’s assistance is included as part of multilateral cooperation plans coordinated by U.N. agencies.
Another 35 percent is sent via 100 Spanish non-governmental organizations and the remaining 25 percent is channeled through direct government-to-government initiatives. EFE