I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and the EFTA country Iceland, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and Moldova, align themselves with this declaration themselves with this explanation of vote.
The European Union believes that the United States trade policy towards Cuba is fundamentally a bilateral issue. Notwithstanding, the European Union and its member States have been clearly expressing their opposition to the extraterritorial extension of the United States embargo, such as that contained in the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 and the Helms-Burton Act of 1996.
The European Union cannot accept that unilateral measures imposed by the United States on specific countries limit the Union’s economic and commercial relations with third countries, in this case Cuba. Therefore, in November 1996, the Council of Ministers of the European Union adopted a regulation and a joint action to protect the interest of natural or legal persons resident in the European Union against the extraterritorial effects of the Helms-Burton legislation, which prohibits compliance with that legislation.
Moreover, on 18 May 1998, at the European Union – United States Summit in London, a package was agreed covering waivers to titles III and IV of the Helms-Burton Act; a commitment by the United States administration to resist future extraterritorial legislation of that kind; and an understanding with respect to disciplines for the strengthening of investment protection. The European Union continues to urge the United States to implement its side of the 18 May 1998 Understanding.
The European Union’s policy towards Cuba is clear and was set out in a Common Position in 1996. The objective of the European Union in its relations with Cuba is to encourage a peaceful process of development, led by the Cuban people, to a pluralist democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as a sustainable economic recovery and an improvement in the living standards of the Cuban people. The European Union underlines its willingness to pursue a comprehensive and open dialogue both with the Cuban government and Cuban civil society on all topics of mutual interest, including in the political, human rights, economic, scientific and cultural fields. The EU reiterates its invitation for dialogue and welcomes that preliminary talks took place on the occasion of this years General Assembly in New York.
The EU deplores that the human rights situation has not fundamentally changed, despite a decrease in the number of political prisoners and acts of harassment. The Cuban Government continues to deny its citizens internationally recognized civil, political and economic rights and freedoms. The EU once again urges the Cuban Government to release unconditionally all political prisoners, a key priority in its policy towards Cuba, and expresses, in particular, utmost concern with the deteriorating health of several political prisoners, members of the Group of 75 political prisoners detained since March 2003, and calls the Cuban authorities to release them immediately. The EU also reiterates its call on the Cuban Government to grant freedom of expression and free access to information.
The Cuban government’s achievements in healthcare and education are undermined by its restrictions on civil, political and economic rights. Domestic Cuban economic policy as well as the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States, seriously hampers the economic development of Cuba, negatively affecting the standards of living of the Cuban people.
With regard to the United States of America, we express our rejection of all unilateral measures against Cuba which are contrary to commonly accepted rules of international trade, and repeat our view that the lifting of the US trade embargo would open Cuba’s economy to the benefit of the Cuban people. With regard to Cuba, the European Union urges the Cuban authorities to bring about real improvements in all fields mentioned.
For all those reasons and in spite of serious criticism on Cubas human rights record, the European Union unanimously voted in favour of the draft resolution (A/62/L.1).
Thank you, Mr. President.
* Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.