The Role of the European Union in the Support of the Civic Democratic Movement in Cuba: Some Observations.
Communication delivered by Alexis Gainza Solenzal, Editor in Chief of Misceláneas de Cuba, at the International Conference Towards Democracy in Cuba, organized by the International Committee for Democracy in Cuba under the auspices of the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Estonia. Tallinn, Estonia, October 13th - 14th of 2005.
The Common Position of the European Union towards Cuba
1. The European Union (EU) articulated for the first time a policy towards Cuba in December 1996. The so called Common Position of the then 15 member states, still in use and valid, emphasizes in its first article that "the objective of the European Union in its relations with Cuba is to encourage a process of transition to pluralist democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and a sustainable recovery and improvement in the living standards of the Cuban people".
2. The Common Position gathers together a handful of goals of the EU in its relation with Cuba, for example: to intensify the political dialogue with all the sectors of the society, to plead (publicly and privately) for the respect for human rights, to stimulate the reform of the national legislation and to maintain the humanitarian aid and the bilateral economic cooperation. As far as we know these goals were never concretized in applicable and controllable measures.
3. However, the conclusions that the EU emits every semester on the state of things in Cuba, clearly reflect the expressed will of the organization to contribute, by means of a critical and constructive dialogue, to the democratization of Cuba. So it becomes evident that the static attitude corresponds to the Government presided by Fidel Castro Ruz, fact shaped in the totality of the conclusions, with the repeated verdict of the Council of the EU: "any substantial change in the political and economic situation of Cuba has not taken place".
4. An abrupt change in the relations of the EU towards Cuba happened in June 2003, when as a result of the massive arrests, martial courts and barbaric sentences of 75 pacific opponents, besides the execution of three young men, the EU unanimously decided to adopt the following package of measures:
- to limit the bilateral high-level governmental visits
- to reduce the profile of member states' participation in cultural events
- to invite Cuban dissidents at national days celebrations
- to proceed to the re-evaluation of the EU common position.
5. A year and a half later, 31st of January 2005, the Council of the EU decided to suspend temporarily all the measures adopted the 5th of June 2003. That decision was reexamined in July 2005, "to the light of the evolution towards democratic pluralism and the respect of the human rights in Cuba". In that occasion the Council decided to maintain the suspension until June of 2006, although the European body verified that "there was no satisfactory progress on human rights in Cuba”.
The problems of the European Union’s Policy towards Cuba
6. In February 2005, in the Swedish Parliament a debate was carried out on the sense of the prorogation of the measures of June 2003. Laila Freivalds, Minister of Foreign Affairs (from the ruling Social-democrat Party), the parliamentarians Gunilla Carlsson, the Moderate Party; Rosita Runegrund, the Christian democrat Party; Gabriel Romanus, from the Swedish Liberal Party and Kaj Nordquist, Social-democrat Party participated.
7. The Minister of Foreign Affairs recognized the doubts and hesitations on this in the Council of the EU are nested, as far as if the present line is the best one for the democratization of Cuba; the debate showed the main problems - not all of them- from which the present European policy towards Cuba suffers.
8. These are, in my opinion: 1) the lack of legitimacy of the communitarian policy in the Cuban civic democratic movement; 2) concrete demands and tangible results are not articulated the Government of Fidel Castro; and 3) the lack of effective methods to widen and deepen the dialogue, as much with the Government, as with his antagonists, the opposition movement and the independent civil society.
Legitimacy in the Cuban civic democratic movement
9. Concerning the first point, it is extremely peculiar and interesting to notice that the totality of documents of the EU relating to the subject of the democratization of Cuba emphasizes the support to the civic democratic movement. Nevertheless, there are no evidence (at least, not publicized) that the EU takes into account the consensual or agreed opinion of the island’s democrats in the design of its policy towards Cuba. This was not made for example when the diplomatic measures of June 2003 were adopted, even less when the same ones were suspended in January 2005.
10. When the liberal Romanus asked Mrs. Freivalds if the democratic opposition had approved the suspension of the measures, the Minister of Foreign Affairs responded: "some different reactions from the opposition have arrived. I believe that the decisive thing is that we show that the European support to the dissidents implies really better possibilities for them to work. For that reason the evaluation that will take place rather soon is important." In the heat of the debate Mrs. Freivalds got to say that until July she hoped "to notify good echo from the democratic movement in Cuba, and that they [the Cuban democrats] will look positively on the development that we have obtained".
11. The certain thing is that the prorogation of the diplomatic measures of June 2003 until June 2006, also occurred behind the backs of the dissidents and without the consultation of the civic democratic movement inside Cuba. Until the EU proves the opposite, we can say that at the present, most of the political structures of the island (among them, the political parties Social Democratic Party of Cuba, Liberal Party of Cuba, Party Democratic Solidarity, Christian Liberation Movement); as well as the civic platforms that mean All United, Varela Project and the Assembly for Promoting the Civil Society in Cuba) see with skepticism the turn in the policy of the EU towards Cuba happened in January 2005.
Concrete demands and tangible results to the Government of Fidel Castro
12. Another criticism that the opposition parliamentarians lined up in the Riksdagen (Swedish Parliament) to Mrs. Freivalds, refereed to the absence of demands and concrete results, presented to the Cuban Government by the EU. The conservative Carlsson looked for example after "real and far-reaching measures in the field of human rights, like for example the liberation of all political prisoners"; while the liberal Romanus asked about which demands Castro regime had to fulfill in order to avoid the return of the measures of June 2003. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden passed in total silence these questions from her political opponents. She simply ignored the subject.
13. And with reason, because no one of the two conclusions - as no other document of the EU by the way- emitted after the temporarily suspended diplomatic measures of June 2003, gathers a set of demands on the Government of Fidel Castro, so that the regime makes the indispensable changes for the democratization of Cuba in a suitable lapse. The absence of demands and concrete measures, functions like the perfect alibi: when demands and measures are not articulated, we cannot evaluate if the selected line by the EU has an effect or not; and at the same time it becomes difficult or impossible to present new approaches to the situation.
14. As an illustration, we have to remember that in December 2004, the Coordinating Council of the Christian Liberation Movement elevated some recommendations to the EU, in which they proposed the renewal of the political dialogue with Cuba by the European organization on the base of the fulfillment of concrete steps. This plan included "the unconditional liberation in the first 6 months of year 2005 of all the prisoners of the Spring of Cuba (the 75 arrested in March 2003) and of those pacific political prisoners that were more than 4 years in prison and those in prison without judgment"; liberation of all the pacific political prisoners during year 2005; "immediately transfer of all the political prisoners to its provinces of residence with worthy, human and verifiable conditions in the penitentiaries", etc.
Dialogue with the Government and the civic democratic movement
15. The Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs confirmed in the mentioned debate that one of the angular stones of the new strategy of the EU towards Cuba, was to widen and deepen its dialogue with the Government of Fidel Castro, the pacific political opposition and wider sectors of the Cuban society. Nevertheless, when the Christian democrat Rosita Runegrund insisted on how this dialogue would be materialized in relation to the opposition, Mrs. Freivalds, -apart from informing that there was available economic support to those committed with the cause of the democracy in Cuba-, declared that she did not detail in which way the democratic and resistance movements get support: "we do not want that the regimes know exactly what strategies we have or what measures we take".
16. In addition to the previous declaration – in fact, a reminiscence of the insolvent diplomacy of silence -, the Minister of Foreign Affairs recognized that we have "to find effective methods to influence the Cuban regime and to support the Cuban opposition". With this pronouncement, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden recognized that there is no a elaborated and formulated strategy, plan or procedure – how even we desire to call it-, on how to conform, to regularize, to systematize, to communicate and to verify the actions in the direction of the dialogue with the different actors in the Cuban dilemma: Government, opposition and Civil Society. The conclusions of the Council in January 2005 express merely that in the high-level visits to the island “the human rights situation and the position of the dissidents would be raised with the Cuban government and civil society. Meetings with the peaceful opposition might be [in Spanish, “cuando proceda”] part of high-level visits."...
17 Conclusions: Taking as departure point the emptiness of Ms. Freivalds´ answers during the debate in the Swedish parliament, as well as the knowledge that the same situation repeats itself in the policy of the other member states of the Union; the political parties, the civil society, the citizens, the European democracies in general, should undertake the difficult task of demanding the European Union:
- to anchor its policy towards Cuba in the island's democratic civic movement, if it considers itself legitimate and in consonance with the interests of the majority of the Cuban people.
- to formulate demands and to demand concrete results to the Government of Fidel Castro towards the democratization of Cuba, so that the fulfillment and accomplishment of such demands and results throw light to the effectiveness of the line in vigor of the EU, and therefore of the necessity to maintain it, to reinforce it,
- to adapt it or to reject it.
- to articulate and to communicate a consensual plan on how to carry out the dialogue with the Government of Fidel Castro in practice, with the pacific dissidence and with the civil society, so that the dialogue could be deliberated, as well as to be put under evaluation and evolution.
A final remark
The human intelligence tends to simplify phenomena characterized by their complexity and polychromes. Maybe for this reason, when discussing the policy of the EU towards Cuba the last couple of years, the antagonists has been defined - sometimes by superfluous and malicious observers, but most of the time by the opponents themselves - as either in favor of the "isolation of Cuba" or as adepts of the "dialogue with Castro" (in both cases, in a contemptuous tone, of course).
The present paper disassociates from this superficial and comfortable dichotomy, and tries to initiate a discussion which will lead to the establishing of rules of the game. A responsible and serious competition for the policy that most favor democratization in Cuba, a policy that is measurable and possible to evaluate. In other words: the policies of the European democracies should be predictable, in contrast to the whims of the Castro dictatorship.
Tallinn, Estonia, 14th of October 2005.
This information was given to Net For Cuba International by Alexis Gainza Solenzal, Director of Misceláneas de Cuba, on the 18th day of October 2005.