Thursday, January 4, 2018

The European Union, Cuba and Iran: Abandoning solidarity with the oppressed to appease dictatorships?

 The European Union's values crisis

Castro's Minister of Culture, Abel Prieto with EU's Federica Mogherini
We are witnessing through acts of omission and commission in Iran and Cuba by Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, a profound crisis in the values that the European political project was founded upon: "respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law."

The European Union's High Representative visited Cuba and focused more on trade opportunities with the 58 year old Castro dictatorship while criticizing U.S. economic sanctions. She has not met with dissidents or directly challenged the regime's dismal human rights record. Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez tweeted today the image above and pointed out that "[y]esterday Federica Mogherini met with the current Minister of Culture, Abel Prieto, one of the ringleaders of the Acts of Repudiation against civil society activists in Panamá during the Summit of the Americas in 2015." The EU High Representative gave a speech that failed to address the main obstacle to a free and prosperous Cuba, in other words the Castro regime, and instead echoed much of the same propaganda put out by the dictatorship.
In her speech she highlighted that the European Union had engaged in a human rights dialogue with the Cuban government since 2015. The same year that Sirley Avila Leon was brutalized in a machete attack for trying to keep a school open in Cuba by agents of the Castro regime.

Prior to leaving for Cuba, Ms. Mogherini drew attention because of her silence for four days, drawing international scrutiny and criticism, as the regime in Iran cracked down on pro-democracy demonstrators.

Unfortunately, the statement on January 2, 2018, was worse than tepid, a case of moral equivalence at a time when clarity is required. Regime violence against demonstrators has been escalating with scores killed by the Iranian regime, more than a thousand arrested, and the European Union's High Representative declared "[i]n the spirit of frankness and respect that is at the basis of our relationship, we expect all concerned to refrain from violence and the right of expression to be guaranteed, also in light of the statements made by the Iranian Government."

 This is a continuation of a long retreat from the fundamental values of the European project. Consider the following previous actions.

On July 5, 2017 a majority of the European Parliament continued their retreat on human rights to advance a commercial relationship with the Castro regime. By a vote of 567 votes to 65, with 31 abstentions, European Parliament members backed the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA) between the EU and Cuba. Previous rapprochements with the dictatorship in Cuba coincided with a worsening human rights decision and the death of high profile dissidents.

On December 6, 2016 the European Council of the European Union abandoned Cuban democrats when it "repealed the EU 1996 Common Position on Cuba. The main objective of EU's 1996 common position on Cuba was to encourage transition to pluralist democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as a sustainable recovery and improvement in the living standards of the Cuban people." 

The Common Position on Cuba provided moral support to Cuban democrats and achieved positive results some of which are highlighted below.

Former British ambassador to Cuba Paul Webster Hare described in 2010 how the EU Common Position on Cuba in 2003 responded to a brutal crackdown on nonviolent dissidents by imposing "diplomatic sanctions on Cuba and invited the dissidents and their families to their parties, alongside members of the government. Fidel Castro was furious, staging massive rallies against the Spanish and Italian embassies and freezing diplomatic contacts. The British embassy received a bomb threat. The solidarity which the EU fostered helped the formation of the Damas de Blanco group. They and Oswaldo Paya have both won EU Parliament prizes. All this was under the Common Position."

Sadly the tide began to change according to Ambassador Hare when Spain's socialists took over and Foreign Minister "Moratinos came to office in 2004 and proposed a radical shift in EU policy. He questioned the purpose of the sanctions, arguing the Common Position stood in the way of `a serene and confident relationship' between the EU and Cuba. Moratinos set about negotiating the sanctions away."

This was part of a larger trend by Europe of rejecting a foreign policy that put human rights first.

In 2014 Czech deputy foreign minister Petr Drulák argued that a "foreign policy with its stress on human rights was wrong and harmful." This abandonment of human rights is not solely confined to Cuba. In February of 2015 the European Union lifted sanctions on the Robert Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe. This was followed in February of 2016 with lifting sanctions on the Alexander Lukashenko regime in Belarus. This is the continuation of a decline in human rights around the world that has been going on for over a decade

There has been a long struggle underway in the European Union. Back on November 23, 2009 the European Union Commissioner Karel De Gucht told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that Europe needed to place less emphasis on human rights in Cuba. 

The late Czech President, Vaclav Havel, in a November 11, 2009 address to the European Parliament in Brussels issued a challenge that the European Union has failed to live up to and warned of the consequences of failure:
"Above all, clear and unequivocal solidarity with all those confronted by totalitarian or authoritarian regimes wherever they are in the world. And economic or other particular interests should not hinder such solidarity. Even a minor, discreet and well-intentioned compromise can have fatal consequences– even if only in the long term, or indirectly. One must not retreat in the face of evil, because it is in the nature of evil to take advantage of every concession. Besides, Europe has already had its own unfortunate experience of appeasement policies. 
On the other hand Havel understood that living up to the challenge of unequivocal solidarity with those resisting totalitarian regimes would have unexpected positive consequences, not only in those countries living under dictatorship, but also lifting up the moral values of those true to themselves by practicing the values preached.
"Our support can help open-minded people or outspoken witnesses to the situation in North Korea, Burma, Iran, Tibet, Belarus, Cuba or anywhere else, much more than we think. But it will help us too. It will help us build a better world and also to be more true to ourselves; in other words, to put into practice the values that we proclaim in general terms."
Eduardo Cardet M.D., national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement, on January 19, 2014 advised the European Union that "[i]t is critical to put full respect for human rights before any kind of dialogue."  Sadly, the European Union did not heed his advise. Today Dr. Cardet is a prisoner of conscience jailed since November 30, 2016 for offering a critical assessment of Fidel Castro and the dictatorship in Cuba.

Yoani Sanchez, a Cuban independent journalist mentioned earlier, tweeted on January 3, 2018 regarding EU engagement with the Castro regime in Spanish explaining that "the rapprochement between the European Union and the Plaza of the Revolution can also be read as a gesture of legitimization, an act of support and solidarity with the Cuban ruling party."

Empowering, legitimizing and appeasing dictators had terrible consequences in the 20th century as Havel alluded to in the quote above and this mistake is being repeated now by the European Union.  The case of North Korea should be a cautionary warning for those advocating this approach in Cuba and Iran.

I miss Vaclav Havel.

No comments:

Post a Comment