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Spain's EU Presidency and Opening Ties with Cuba

This blog has also been crossposted with FPA’s Latin America Blog.

Spain's EU Presidency and Opening Ties with CubaThe Council on Hemispheric Affairs recently published an interesting article online discussing the EU policy towards Cuba, and its effectiveness in balancing trade, human rights and US-EU policy regarding Castro’s Cuba. COHA research associate Evgenij Haperskij points out that the EU’s “Common Policy” towards Cuba has suffered from the same problems as many policies in the EU that affect one member more than the other current 27 members, in that EU interests on certain key issues tend to aggravate national issues and have no clear supranational result in the EU itself. Focusing on national issues when one member has stronger ties with one policy issue than other members in the EU is not wholly negative, but with complex issues such as Cuban relations, EU ties with the US and non-US reaction to the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, the Common Policy becomes a policy of accommodating the optics of EU-Cuba relations as opposed to solving technical issues between the two countries.

Spain has taken on the Presidency of the EU since January and outstanding issues between the EU and Cuba may become one of the key achievements of Spain’s EU Presidency. Spain has always pushed for a more open relationship with Cuba since the Common Policy was adopted in 1996 as a response to Helms-Burton. Spain and its companies have been the most active European firms in the island and outstanding debt with Cuba and Spanish companies have been an unresolved issue since adoption of Helms-Burton in 1996. While the Clinton administration eased some restrictions towards foreign companies operating in Cuba since then and US-Cuban relations have opened up somewhat under Raul Castro, the EU has yet to ease its own policy ties with Cuba, ones which tie economic development to the progression of democracy and rights on the island. EU policy in Cuba has done little but to aggravate relations between Castro and Brussels with little improvements in EU-Cuban economic relations nor a concrete improvement for human rights on the island. Despite this, the economic and cultural ties between Spain and Cuba and the general opening up of ties between the US and Cuba will allow Spain to widen its relations with Cuba and produce less opposition among EU members as Cuban ties will not affect US ties with EU, even thought other EU members would like a more democratic Cuba and new Central European EU members would prefer weaker ties with Cuba who is seen as having stronger links with Moscow.

Opening ties with Cuba might be a great achievement for Spain, but may do little to get media attention outside of the Iberian Peninsula. In the end, Spanish companies which number 280 firms that have been or had operated in Cuba have $US300 million in payments owed to them suspended in Cuba through investment ties or by its the Cuban government. With countries like Cuba not often giving compensation for property of foreign companies or forcing legal processes for compensation to be processed within the Cuban legal system, it is in Spain’s interest to quietly deal with Cuba and appease the US and other EU members where it sees fit. In the end, the natural ties Spain has with Cuba economically, socially and culturally might serve Cuba and Spain better in the long run than the lack of contact since 1996 between the US and EU with Castro’s Cuba.



Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration


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