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26 October 2016, New York – European Union Explanation of Vote at the United Nations General Assembly: Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba [item 39]

Mr. President,

I have the honor to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.

The Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the EFTA country Liechtenstein, member of the European Economic Area, as well as the Republic of Moldova, align themselves with this statement.

Mr. President,

Since the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, and the calls of President Obama on Congress to start work towards the elimination of the embargo, the situation has further evolved. The EU warmly welcomes the measures already taken and encourages their further implementation through relevant steps by both sides.

In the meantime, however, the fundamental restrictive measures are still in place. They are even more of an anachronism under the new circumstances. However, beyond the damaging impact of the embargo on ordinary Cubans, the effects and side effects of extraterritorial legislation and of unilateral administrative and judicial measures are also negatively affecting EU economic interests. This requires even more urgent action given the greater opening of the Cuban economy and the need to see a level playing field.

American legislation such as the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 and the Helms-Burton Act of 1996 extended the effects of the US’ embargo to third-party countries. In the framework of the Common Commercial Policy, the European Union has firmly and continuously opposed such extraterritorial measures. While recognizing the decisions by the US Government to lift restrictions on remittances and family travel to Cuba, allowing the provision of certain telecommunications, internet and financial services or export tools and building materials to support the Cuban people, we cannot accept that unilaterally imposed measures impede our economic and commercial relations with Cuba. To address this problem the EU’s Council of Ministers adopted, in November 1996, a regulation and a joint action to protect the interests of natural or legal persons residing in Europe against the consequences of these Acts. In this context we welcome very warmly the US’ and Israel’s abstentions. Contrary to our expectations, the situation for EU financial operators in and with Cuba, targeted by extraterritorial sanctions, has not improved or has even worsened in some regards. This constitutes undue interference and problems for EU citizens, businesses and NGOs living, working or operating in Cuba. We expect an early solution to these problems, as normalization with Cuba should apply to all interested parties.

At the Summit between the European Union and the United States held in London in May 1998, a package was agreed that also sought to alleviate the problems with extraterritorial legislation. It covered waivers to titles III and IV of the Helms-Burton Act, a commitment by the US Government to resist future extraterritorial legislation of that kind, and an understanding regarding disciplines for the strengthening of investment protection. It is urgent that the United States fully respect and implement this agreement.

In March 2016, the negotiation of a Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement were concluded. The PDCA aims to consolidate relations and to create an enabling framework for more effective dialogue, improved cooperation and expanded economic relations. The agreement is now being finalized and is slated to be signed in the coming months. This bilateral agreement will put the entire EU-Cuba relationship on a new and solid legal footing. It will also be a game changer for our relationship and open more doors and fora for dialogue with Cuba, including on the issues on which we still have fundamental differences. Human rights are at the core of EU external relations, including with Cuba. We have also initiated a specific dialogue on Human Rights issues. The second high level discussion on these issues took place in Havana during June 2016. We are encouraged that no subjects will be off limits in those processes. The EU remains determined to pursue a comprehensive dialogue with the Cuban authorities and all sectors of Cuban society. We reiterate the right of Cuban citizens to decide independently on their future.

We reiterate our call on the Cuban Government to fully grant its citizens internationally recognized civil, political and economic rights and freedoms, including freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and free access to information, to ratify the UN Covenant for Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and, following the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, extend invitations to other rapporteurs to visit Cuba. We welcome the continued broad application of the Cuban citizen’s freedom to travel. We note with concern the continued high frequency of short term arrests and appeal for all freedoms to be fully respected and protected.

In contrast with the Cuban achievements in healthcare and education, the slow progress of economic modernization seriously hampers Cuban economic development. In this context, we recall the adoption by the Cuban Parliament in August 2011 of a package of economic and social reforms and expect that these will be extended and implemented in a manner that will address the key concerns of the Cuban population. The economic, commercial, and financial embargo imposed by the United States contributes to the economic problems in Cuba, negatively affecting the living standards of the Cuban people and having consequences in the humanitarian fields as well.

Lifting the US embargo could facilitate an opening of the Cuban economy to the benefit of the Cuban people. Together, we again express our rejection of all unilateral measures directed against Cuba, which negatively affect third parties’ interests and thereby violate commonly accepted rules of international trade.

In the framework of our comprehensive agreement, we will work with Cuban counterparts to consolidate and expand improvements in all areas mentioned. Through its cooperation and the future framework agreement, the EU is ready to accompany Cuba on its path of reform and modernization. Substantial progress has been achieved in a constructive spirit, including on human rights, governance and civil society. Against this background, the Member States of the European Union unanimously voted in favor of the draft resolution (A/71/L3).

I thank you and warmly congratulate the Cuban delegation on the result.

* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

  • Ref: EUUN16-158EN
  • EU source: EU Presidency
  • UN forum: General Assembly - Plenary
  • Date: 26/10/2016

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