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 Full text 
Thursday, 15 November 2018 - Strasbourg Provisional edition

The human rights situation in Cuba

  Christos Stylianides, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, almost two years ago, the European Union, our Member States and Cuba, signed a new agreement – the so—called Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement – which opened a new chapter in our relations with Cuba. Around a year ago this agreement entered into provisional application, after having received Parliament’s overwhelming support in its assent vote.

While there is broad—ranging agreement on political dialogue and cooperation, it was very clear from the beginning that human rights should be a central part of it, and even before its formal application we started holding human rights discussions, both in Brussels and Havana.

Last May, at the Joint Council meeting, Federica Mogherini and the Cuban Foreign Minister decided to start formal political dialogues on a number of areas. The very first formal political dialogue we had with Cuba was precisely the Human Rights one held last month in Havana. This was an important point for us to underline the continued relevance of human rights in our bilateral relations. For the first time, it involved the participation of our EU Member States as observers, and the organisation of a civil society seminar in its margins.

We all know that there are still important differences between the EU and Cuba on many issues, notably on the way human rights and democracy are applied. This is why during last month’s Human Rights Dialogue we raised important matters, such as the need for ratification and implementation of the relevant international instruments on human rights, proper legal guarantees in criminal proceedings, freedom of association and expression, and the protection of human rights defenders.

The civil society seminar that was organised in the margins of the Dialogue tackled the situation of LGBTI groups and gender equality. While only registered Cuban civil society organisations were able to attend the seminar on this occasion, we recalled the importance to enlarge these discussions to the whole range of civil society, whether registered or not.

I would like to give some numbers about our projects. Most of these projects, indeed for around EUR 10 million, are implemented by European and Cuban civil society organisations, including religious organisations. Vulnerable Cuban people’s rights have been specifically addressed by a number of these projects – women, elderly people, people with disabilities and LGBTI – lesbian, gay, bisexual and so on. We will continue raising this, and all other subjects that are close to our hearts, with our Cuban counterparts in different meetings. Human rights need to be promoted on a day—to—day basis.

I would like to reiterate our conviction that the best way to address the differences we have with Cuba in these matters is through a process of dialogue based on clear and consistent messages. It is certainly difficult and trying, but it is the best manner to sustain results in the long term and to contribute to Cuba’s and its population’s path to reform and modernisation.

Last updated: 26 November 2018Legal notice