EU should normalise ties with Cuba before US does, official says

13th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

EU foreign ministers will discuss relations with Cuba during a meeting in Luxembourg on June 15, with particular attention on human rights issues, in a bid to come up with a new European policy towards Havana.

Brussels -- The European Union should swiftly normalise ties with Cuba before the US does so, EU Development Commissioner Louis Michel urged Monday.

"I think that if the European Union does not consolidate the normalisation of relations with Cuba, the Americans will do so before us," Michel said ahead of a meeting in Brussels with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez along with the Czech EU presidency and EU Foreign Affairs Chief Javier Solana.

US President Barack Obama last month scrapped restrictions on travel and remittances to the island for Cubans living in the United States.

After those overtures Obama said the ball was now in Cuba's court, saying he was waiting in particular for the release of political prisoners.

For its part the EU, under pressure from Spain, has lifted its sanctions against Cuba that had already been suspended since 2005.

EU foreign ministers will discuss relations with Cuba during a meeting in Luxembourg on June 15, with particular attention on human rights issues, in a bid to come up with a new European policy towards Havana.

"I don't see much interest in deciding to re-impose sanctions," said Michel.

He said a recent trip he made to Cuba had been "extremely positive," assuring that human rights were raised during his talks there.

"I got the impression everywhere that Cubans have a real wish to completely normalise their relations with the European Union which, in their eyes, has become an increasingly important partner," he added.

Last month former Cuban leader Fidel Castro urged Obama to end a nearly half-a-century-old US economic "blockade" of Cuba.

AFP/Expatica

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