Human Rights Focus in EU-Cuba Negotiations Must be Revisited

In light of Fidel Castros death and the increasing repression against the democracy movement in Cuba, the EU Council and the European Parliament should ask themselves if the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA) that will be signed shortly is truly the best the EU could do in promoting human rights and democracy in Cuba.

This report focuses on the policy that the European Union has been developing towards Cuba over the past few years, as codified in the PDCA. We put the agreement’s role in the context of the current political situation in Cuba and compare it to the previous policy, as defined in the EU Common Position on Cuba that was adopted by the EU Council in 1996. We will also compare the way human rights and democracy are dealt with in the Cuba PDCA agreement with the Association Agreement that was signed in 2012 with six countries in Central America.

Also read: Nothing but a Dialogue on Human Rights.

The increase in political repression started just after the negotiations ended in March and the visit of President Obama to the island a couple of weeks later. This should be seen as a consequence of the Government’s self-confidence after successfully establishing new relations with the international community without having to change its political system.

This report concludes that the Cuban government’s strategy over the coming years is transparent and does not include any reforms when it comes to the political system or human rights. When comparing the agreement with the Association Agreement the EU signed with six countries in Central America in 2012, it is clear that the demands concerning democracy and human rights in formally democratic states are a lot higher than in authoritarian ones like Cuba.

From this perspective, the agreement rather complements the government’s strategy to transfer the political power from the revolutionary generation to their political heirs, and the economic power to the hands of the military, more than it promotes the human rights agenda as the EU is claiming. The Cuban government can therefore comply with the PDCA without changing anything substantial when it comes to human rights.

By defending the status quo in Cuba, the international community is also delegitimising the democracy movement’s strategy to work for change with non-violent means. Frustrated citizens might lose faith in peaceful change and advocate for violence. Should those circumstances occur, the international community would have to intervene. The agreement is, however, not only a misstep in relation to Cuba, but also in relation to other authoritarian governments. If the EU loosens its demands on one authoritarian country, it will be even harder to push for change in others.

We recommend members of the European Parliament not to give consent to the agreement.