Sommaire: March 26, 2005: Louis Michel sees clear opportunity to enhance political dialogue with Cuba (Brussels)
European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel, welcomed today in Havana the commitment of Cuban authorities to enhance political dialogue with the European Union, based on mutual respect and frank exchanges on all issues without taboos. On Friday night, Commissioner Michel met the Cuban President, Fidel Castro, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Felipe Pérez Roque. Their four-hour meeting took place in a positive and constructive
Commissioner Michel and Minister Pérez Roque agreed to explore ways to launch a structured dialogue on issues which include Human Rights and the cooperation in judicial matters, elections and the situation in prisons. Louis Michel declared: "There is a clear mutual interest in developing closer relations and political dialogue, on the basis of respect of sovereignty and reciprocity". He recalled the EU's position on the release of all political prisoners.
Other meetings on Friday included the Vice President of the Council of State, Carlos Lage Dávila, the President of the National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada, the Minister for Cooperation and Foreign Investments, Marta Lomas Morales, and a group of members of the European Parliament visiting Cuba. On Saturday, Commissioner Michel had talks with Cardinal Jaime Ortega, several Cuban researchers in the field of economics and politics, and EU ambassadors. He also met with several representatives from Cuban civil society, including prominent peaceful dissidents. Louis Michel appreciated that he did not encounter any difficulties in meeting dissidents and Human Rights activists.
The Commissioner responsible for Development and Humanitarian Aid visited a project on "urban agriculture" of a German NGO in Alamar, Havana, funded by the EU.
In his talks with Cuban officials, Louis Michel stressed "the importance of regional integration in a multilateral world and in the context of economic globalization". And he pointed out the Cotonou Agreement, between the EU and 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, as a comprehensive and stable framework for political dialogue, economic cooperation and development aid. "More than ever, this remains an option for Cuba. It would be mutually beneficial", he said.
Commissioner Michel acknowledged the valuable expertise of Cuba in development, with a particular focus in education, health and disaster preparedness and noticed that "Cuba can become an important partner of the EU for development".