Friday, June 20, 2008

EU to lift sanctions on Cuba

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union on Thursday agreed to lift its diplomatic sanctions against Cuba, but imposed tough conditions on the communist island to maintain sanction-free relations, officials said.
The U.S., which has maintained a decades-long trade embargo against Cuba, criticized the move, saying there were no significant signs the communist island was easing a dictatorship.

EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the bloc felt it had to encourage changes in Cuba after Raul Castro took over as the head of the country's government from his ailing brother Fidel.

"There will be very clear language also on what the Cubans still have to do ... releasing prisoners, really working on human rights questions," she told reporters at an EU summit. "There will be a sort of review to see whether indeed something will have happened."

The largely symbolic decision takes effect Monday. The diplomatic sanctions, which banned high-level visits to EU nations by Cuban officials, have not been in force since 2005. They were imposed in 2003 following the arrests of dozens of dissidents but suspended two years later.

As part of its action, the EU approved a set of conditions on Cuba in return for sanction-free relations. They include the release of all political prisoners; access for Cubans to the Internet; and a double-track approach for all EU delegations arriving in Cuba, allowing them to meet both opposition figures and members of the Cuban government.

Officials said the bloc will evaluate Cuba's progress in a year's time and could take new measures if human rights do not improve.

The U.S. expressed its opposition before the EU's final decision.

State Department Deputy spokesman Tom Casey said the United States would "like to see a real transition occur in Cuba, one that would allow for the release of political prisoners, for democratic opening, and ultimately for free and fair elections in which the Cuban people could choose their own leadership."

Casey said the U.S. has recently seen "some very minor cosmetic changes" in Cuba. "We certainly don't see any kind of fundamental break with the Castro dictatorship that would give us reason to believe that now would be the time to lift sanctions or otherwise fundamentally alter our policies," he said.

The Rest Here

Those damn Europeans! You have Cuba make changes, and THEN you open your doors to them! What is to stop Raul from doing what he pleases, only now he will have a European market?!? Give us an election and give your people internet, and THEN we will open our market to you. That is how it is supposed to work. We do not reward scumbag dictators!

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