BRUSSELS — Spain will seek to establish a new bilateral agreement on
EU-Cuba ties, including human rights, in the first half of 2010 when it
will hold the EU's rotating presidency, its foreign minister said Saturday.
Spain's Miguel Angel Moratinos stressed his country's intentions after a
European Union meeting with Cuba, represented by its foreign minister
The talks were the fourth of their kind since Europe established a
political dialogue with Havana last year.
Spain has been in the forefront of efforts to boost relations with Cuba.
Madrid wants to see an end to the European Union's Common Position on
Cuba, adopted in 1996, which calls for human rights and democracy
progress as a condition for normal relations with the European bloc.
The Spanish government "hopes to initiate during its presidency," in the
first half of next year "a bilateral cooperation framework" with Cuba,
Moratinos told reporters after the meeting in Brussels.
The current common position "is only the unilateral position of the
European Union," he underlined, whereas under a bilateral deal Havana
would have to make commitments, including on human rights.
He promised that if the Spanish initiative went ahead "there will be a
strong chapter" on human rights.
Saturday's meeting was also attended by EU Development Commissioner
Karel De Gucht, and Frank Belfrage, state secretary for foreign affairs
for Sweden, which currently holds the EU presidency which it will hand
over to Spain at the end of the year.
Cuban minister Rodriguez agreed with Moratinos that ties with Europe
were heading in the right direction, saying he was convinced that "the
majority of EU nations are in favour of standardising relations.
Rodriguez reiterated however that the EU's common position is an
"insuperable obstacle" that should be scrapped as soon as possible.
The EU suspended ties with Cuba after a major roundup of 75 dissidents
in March 2003, but resumed aid cooperation in 2008.
Spain's policy on Cuba shifted in 2005 after Socialist Prime Minister
Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero came to power the previous year. His
conservative predecessor, Jose Maria Aznar, had adopted a policy of
isolating the Communist island.
In 2007 Spain and Cuba, a former Spanish colony, renewed ties.
AFP: Spain wants EU-Cuba agreement in first half of 2010 (28 November 2009)