MADRID – Spanish Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo made an offer to Cuba’s communist regime to soften the framework of the European Union’s relationship with Cuba if Havana takes steps toward democracy and respect for human rights.
Garcia-Margallo made the offer on Wednesday during his first appearance before the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Spanish Parliament’s lower house to report on his plans for heading the ministry.
The minister said that the government of Premier Mariano Rajoy supports “a flexible interpretation of the Common Position, which allows it to be adjusted as a result of the advances the Cuban government is making regarding respect for human rights and the recognition of political pluralism.”
The Common Position is the political framework that the EU has maintained with the Caribbean country since 1996 and which subordinates European dialogue with the Havana authorities to the Castro regime’s movement toward democracy and respect for internationally recognized freedoms.
If the Castro government were to take such steps, Garcia-Margallo said that “the possibility of a bilateral accord between the EU and Cuba could be explored.”
“In that situation, which is already (laid out) in the Common Position itself,” the minister said, “the question of human rights would have a clear presence.”
The head of Spanish diplomacy emphasized the “enormous affection” he feels for Cuba.
“Affection that makes me wish for Cuba the same thing that I’ve always wished for Spain,” he added.
The minister’s proposal comes two days after the Castro regime criticized him for “intervening” and for what it said was “new meddling” after Garcia-Margallo insisted in an interview with the Spanish daily El Mundo that as long as Cuba makes no steps toward democracy Spain will not support any change in the EU’s Common Position.
“It’s not in Cuba where the admirers of Franco are. It’s better for him to look around himself,” said Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Dagoberto Rodriguez in a communique in which he noted that the Caribbean country “is no longer a colony” of Madrid.
In his appearance before Parliament, Garcia-Margallo reiterated that Ibero-America will be one of his priorities, along with Europe and the Mediterranean.
He backed the idea of strengthening Madrid’s strategic accords with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru and seeking formulas for joint action in international organizations, in development cooperation, in conflict resolution and crisis mediation.
With regard to development aid, the minister reaffirmed his commitment to maintain cooperation with Spain’s “sister nations.”
However, he also said that the government’s austerity plan will force priorities to be redefined. EFE