‘Human rights key to EU–Cuba relations’: Spain

Cuba will have to respect human rights if it wants to see its trade and diplomatic relations by the European Union upgraded as mooted recently, Spain's foreign minister said on Monday.

'Human rights key to EU–Cuba relations': Spain
Cubans celebrate the birth of socialist Cuba with posters of revolutionary leaders, Ernesto Che Guevara (R) and Cuban Camilio Cienfuegos in Havana on 2010. Photo: Str/AFP

The comments from foreign minister José Manuel Garcia Margallo come after European Commission president José Manuel Barroso said on Friday that the bloc may revise its relations with Cuba after a decade of friction over the communist island's human rights record.

The European Union suspended relations with Cuba in 2003 after the Cuban authorities threw 75 dissidents into jail, all of whom have since been released.

Dialogue with the EU resumed in 2008, leading to various bilateral agreements with 15 EU states, but normal diplomatic relations have yet to be established.

European diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, told news agency AFP on Thursday that the EU was now preparing to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Barroso confirmed this change. He noted that the EU has a common position on its relations with Cuba. The 1996 policy conditions EU diplomatic relations with Cuba on the island's democratic and human rights record.

"It is true we are analyzing internally the possibility of revising that position. But for that we need unanimity," Barroso told a joint news conference with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in Madrid.

"It is important that Cuba respects human rights, that it does not have political prisoners. Freedom of expression and freedom of association are very important," Barroso added.

"Anything positive that can be done in Cuba to open the country to democratic values will certainly be positive."

The EU manoeuvres come a month after US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raoul Castro shared a handshake in South Africa at a memorial ceremony for the late Nelson Mandela.

The United States and Cuba have not had full diplomatic relations since 1961.

There are some 125,000 Cubans registered as living in Spain, according to the country's National Statistics Institute.

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