UN: Explanation of vote on necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba

UN 61st Session; General Assembly Plenary, Agenda Item 18: Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba

New York, 8 November 2006

Explanation of vote by H.E. Ms. Kirsti Lintonen, Ambassador, Permanent Repserentative of Finland to the United Nations, on behalf of the European Union

Mr President,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.

The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and the EFTA countries Iceland and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this explanation of vote.

Mr President,

Regarding the no-action motion the EU voted against. This is based on the EU's long standing opposition to the use of no-action motions which in its view are contrary to the spirit of dialogue. Regarding the substance itself 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 pacific process of transition, led by the Cuban people, to 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 that it is willing to cooperate with Cuba in these fields on the basis of a dialogue with the Cuban government and the Cuban civil society, as soon as the Cuban government shows political will to engage in a dialogue aiming at tangible results, especially in the field of human rights. Member States reaffirmed their commitment to this Common Position most recently on 12 June 2006.

The European Union believes that critical engagement with the Cuban government, alongside dialogue with wider Cuban civil society, is the most effective way to promote peaceful change in Cuba. However, the European Union considers that full co-operation with Cuba will depend upon improvements in human rights and political freedom in that country. The European Union remains deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Cuba.

The EU also remains deeply concerned about cases where representatives of the peaceful opposition and civil society have been intimidated and harassed in order to repress critical voices. Also family members of political prisoners have been victims of  so called "acts of repudiation". There still remain prisoners neither charged nor tried, and suspected sympathiser of the banned political opposition have been detained and sentenced under the provisions of the Penal Code on "pre-delictive dangerousness". The European Union urges the Cuban government to unconditionally release all political prisoners and refrain from acts against the members of their families and appeals to the Cuban authorities to co-operate fully with international human rights bodies and mechanisms, especially the Personal Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Cuba.

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 Cuba’s human rights record, the European Union will unanimously vote in favour of the draft resolution (A/61/L.10).

Thank you, Mr President.

* Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.