Friday, October 24, 2008

EU formally lifts sanctions against Cuba

EU formally lifts sanctions against Cuba
Written by Larry Moonze in Havana, Cuba

THE European Union on Thursday formally lifted its sanctions against Cuba and granted an immediate two million euros emergency humanitarian aid package to Havana for hurricanes recovery. Signing the political and cooperation agreement with Cuban foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque here in Havana, EU development commissioner Louis Michel said Europe, Cuba and the entire world needed optimism.

"This marks a special point in our relations, a new partnership that will have positive results for both parties," Michel said. "I think that the elements that unite Cuba and the European Union are more numerous than those that divide us."

He said apart from the two million euros immediately available for reconstruction following hurricanes Gustav and Ike devastation in September, the 27-member EU would by 2009 mobilize additional 25 to 30 million

Michel said the restoration of ties with Havana severed five years ago showed the commitment by the EU to dialogue on the basis of mutual respect.

In 2003, the EU slapped diplomatic sanctions on Cuba following the imprisoning of some 70 dissidents. Michel said the new agreement would be a stimulus to the creation of dialogue without taboo and cooperation.

He said there were more reasons to dialogue and that Cuba and the EU shared a common platform on various international issues such as reform of the international financial institutions. Michel said Cuba and the EU were restoring ties when there was an important challenge in the international arena demanding financial reforms, attention to climate change, the food crisis and the need to aid developing countries.

"It is in this area that Cuba has an added value that could help her neighbours and other developing countries," said Michel. "This is useful for Cuba, the EU and developing countries."

And Perez Roque said Cuba's policy was that of establishing relations with different countries of the world including the EU based on respect of sovereignty, equality and respectful dialogue. He said the signed agreement opened a new phase that moved beyond past conflicts with the EU.

"The decision is consistent with the interests of thepeople of the European Union and Cuba," Perez Roque said.

He said conditions had been created to facilitate dialogue on the basis of mutual respect, sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of both parties.
Perez Roque said while there were some differences that remained to be ironed out, such could not be an obstacle to dialogue.

He disclosed that an EU high-level technical delegation would visit Cuba early November to discuss developmental programmes from 2009 onwards.

"Cuba has won an important place in the world inspite of the 50-year-old US blockade," said Perez Roque.

The EU and Cuba would explore possibility of joint cooperation on such issues as health, education, agriculture and environmental protection.

The unconditional lifting of EU sanctions puts the US in an awkward position ahead of the UN vote on October 29 on a motion asking America to end its half century embargo against Cuba.

Perez Roque thanked Spanish government, and Michel for their efforts leading to the normalization of ties with Cuba.

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