BRUSSELS – The European Union’s “common position” toward Cuba, which makes warmer relations with the communist-ruled island contingent on progress in human rights, will remain in place for now due to lack of unanimity in the 27-member EU on adopting a softer approach, Spanish official sources told Efe Friday.
They said opposition from Germany, France, the Czech Republic and Sweden is thwarting Spain’s aspiration to change the policy during its six-month term in the EU rotating presidency, which ends June 30.
Though the common position is set to remain in force, a source with the European Commission said next Monday’s discussion of the issue by EU foreign ministers will center on a “process of reflection taking into account the future of relations with Cuba.”
At the same time, the ministers’ formal findings will include “clear references” to human rights in Cuba and specifically to the February death of political prisoner Orlando Zapata after an 85-day hunger strike, European Commission sources said.
Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos met Thursday in Paris with Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez, who told reporters afterward that Havana did not plan any concessions to induce the EU to change its policy.
Officials in Madrid say Spain’s bid to scrap the common position was derailed by a combination of Cuban President Raul Castro’s unwillingness to make gestures on human rights and the inflexibility of some EU nations.
The EU adopted the common position on Cuba in 1996 at the urging of then-Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, a conservative.
Since taking office in April 2004, the Socialist government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has worked to improve Madrid’s relations with Havana while trying to persuade Spain’s EU partners to follow suit.
Spain says the EU should replace its unilateral stance toward Cuba with a genuinely bilateral relationship, but without abandoning the goals of fostering democracy and respect for human rights on the island.
Cuba’s foreign minister said Thursday that while the common position is an irritant, deciding whether to maintain the policy or change it is strictly an EU internal matter. EFE