Saturday, June 09, 2007

EU mulls dropping sanctions against Cuba

EU Business

08 June 2007, 18:17 CET

(BRUSSELS) - The European Union could soon formally scrap its sanctions against Cuba, currently suspended, European sources said Friday.

The proposal to drop the sanctions -- adopted in 2003 but suspended two years later -- was put forward by Spain and others at a recent meeting of EU diplomats dealing with Latin America, the sources said.

If adopted this month it would signify the normalisation of EU-Cuban relations two months after Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos visited Havana, becoming the first EU foreign minister to do so since 2003.

The sanctions, which the 27 EU member states could otherwise decide to suspend for another two years, include restricting bilateral government visits. The European Union imposed political and diplomatic sanctions on Cuba in 2003 after the regime arrested and sentenced 75 dissidents to lengthy prison terms and the summary executions of three young Cuban who had sought to escape to the United States by boat.

The sanctions notably include restrictions on bilateral government visits.

The EU must decide in June what to do about the sanctions which were suspended in January 2005 at Spain's initiative, following the release of several dissidents.

The German EU presidency is expected to present the proposition to scrap the sanctions at the next EU meeting on Latin America on Wednesday, the sources said.

Then on June 18 EU foreign ministers could re-evaluate their relations with Havana.

The EU 27 have long been divided on the issue with Spain, Italy and Germany are in the forefront of countries seeking dialogue.

Poland and the Czech Republic, former communist states close to Washington, have favoured pressuring Havana for democratic change.

However, according to the European sources, the Czech Republic seems increasingly isolated in its opposition to normalisation.

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