Cuban and European NGOs: Include Civil Society and Political Opponents in Negotiations

Wednesday, August 27, 2014
This week, representatives of the Castro dictatorship and the European Union are meeting in Brussels to discuss a potential new framework for bilateral relations.

(Apparently, the billions that EU companies and tourists have provided the Castro regime over the years hasn't been quite enough.)

It's the second meeting in this ongoing series -- the first was last April in Havana.

Ahead of today's meeting, the "For Another Cuba" ("Por Otra Cuba") campaign, a Havana-based citizen's initiative led by Cuban democracy leader, Antonio Rodiles, has teamed up with the Stockholm-based human rights NGO, Civil Rights Defenders, to issue a "Platform for Discussion on the Current EU-Cuba Negtiations."

You can read the entire document here.

Here's the Executive Summary:

The European Union bilateral relationship with Cuba has always been guided by the promotion of human rights and democracy, as explicitly stated in its “Common Position” toward Cuba. Therefore such values should also form the cornerstone of on-going negotiations between the EU and Cuba regarding the bilateral Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement that was initiated in April 2014.

In 2008, the Cuban government took its first positive step towards respecting human rights by signing the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The following years, Cuba released many political prisoners; including the 75 human rights defenders imprisoned during the spring of 2003. However, Cuba has not taken any further effective steps to ratify or implement the International Covenants. Political persecution and repression continues, while any space for opposition in official Cuban political life remains wholly elusive.

The EU must therefore first seek to include Cuban civil society and political opponents in the negotiation process with the Cuban government in order to ensure legitimacy to the final agreement for the Cuban population.

The EU should then move on to include basic steps regarding the ratification and implementation of the ICCPR and ICESCR, as well as their respective additional protocols in the agreement.

The implementation should be understood, in a first step, as the incorporation of these instruments into the Cuban constitution, and national laws so that basic human rights, such as the right to association, the right to form unions, the right to own property and the right to freedoms of expression, press and movement are guaranteed.

Finally, the EU should ensure that civil society and Cuban political opponents have the opportunity to maintain open dialogue with the EU throughout the follow up process of the agreement.

The 2012 EU agreement with Central America includes chapters on Political Dialogue, Cooperation and Trade. It should constitute a basis for the agreement with Cuba in its first two chapters. When Cuba has ratified the International Covenants and implemented the basic reforms implied, the EU should then open the negotiation process for a beneficial trade agreement and not before. It is therefore a worrying sign at this stage that negotiations already seem to include a trade agreement, although the EU has never communicated this before negotiations commenced.

A fundamental condition, before the EU consider signing such an agreement should stipulate that Cuba promises to comply with its commitment to ratify and implement the International Covenants; sets free all political prisoners and halt the arbitrary arrests of Cuban democracy activists.