Global Europe Brief: Are we in for a Cuban summer?

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We are seeing the biggest protests against Cuba’s Communist regime in decades.

As the Caribbean country faces one of its biggest economic crises since the fall of the Soviet Union, thousands of Cubans, chanting “freedom” and calling for President Miguel Diaz-Canel to step down, joined street protests from Havana to Santiago last weekend in the biggest anti-government demonstrations on the Communist-run island in decades.

Several protesters, activist and journalists were detained.

“The place for these people is not in prison but in a public discourse,” EU foreign affairs spokesman Peter Stano told reporters in Brussels. calling the arrest “unacceptable” and asking the Cuban authorities “to release immediately” all those detained.

Stano did not say whether EU’s chief diplomat Joseph Borrell planned to intervene further on the matter.

Relations with Cuba have been strained in recent years, due to the EU’s numerous accusations of Havana’s human rights abuses, which have been a sticking point of a 2016 political dialogue and cooperation agreement (PDCA). The agreement has been ratified by all member states except Lithuania.

Spanish MEP José Ramón Bauzá (Renew) sent a letter to Borrell this week, signed by 32 MEPs, calling on the EU chief diplomat to “strongly condemn” the Cuban government’s repression, pressure for the release of detainees and convene an urgent meeting under the PDCA.

“With regard to specific economic measures, European funds should be supporting Cuba’s independent civil society, and not state-owned enterprises, which ends up enriching the regime’s elite,” Bauzá, a member of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET), told EURACTIV.

“This would be a first step for the EU to start putting its money where its mouth is,” he added.

The Spanish MEP added that “unless there is a clear commitment by Cuban authorities to implement the human rights provisions of the agreement and deliver real democratic change, the EU should immediately activate the suspension mechanism” as “the PDCA has failed in achieving its objectives”.

He also criticised Borrell for his allegedly “half-hearted criticism” towards the Cuban regime.

Earlier in June, Borrell had come under fire in what some considered an in-house political game when he had to defend before the European Parliament the ratification and implementation of a political dialogue agreement with Cuba.

A leaked email had suggested close proximity between some Socialist EU lawmakers and the Cuban regime, but Borrel dismissed it as “ridiculous”.


EU IN THE WORLD

BELARUS BORDER. Yet another episode in the ongoing stand-off between Lithuania and Belarus is heating up: According to Lithuania’s border guard service nearly 1,700 migrants have entered Lithuania illegally from Belarus this year. That’s 21 times more illegal migrants in six months than in the whole of 2020. Enter a state of emergency, border fence and Frontex rapid reactions forces.

Official entities, such as airlines and tourist agencies, are involved in organised human trafficking via Belarus and could face sanctions, Lithuania’s foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, told EURACTIV in an exclusive interview.

In a cross-border investigation spanning Lithuania, Belarus and Iraq, EURACTIV’s media partner LRT digs into the new human-smuggling route.

DIPLOMATIC ACADEMY. To overcome the growing pains of its foreign policy-making, the EU must have its own European Diplomatic Academy, a European Parliament proposal, seen by EURACTIV, stated recently.

This week European Commission and EEAS announced that the plan can be implemented as it is.

PRESIDENCY GRILLING. Presenting Slovenia’s EU presidency’s foreign policy priorities to the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET), Foreign Minister Anže Logar was grilled by MEPs about a non-paper on redrawing Western Balkan borders, the situation of North Macedonia and Albania, and Prime Minister Janez Janša’s recent controversial statements about Iran (which Borrell has not been amused about).

AFGHANISTAN WOES. US President Joe Biden’s decision to pull out from Afghanistan, combined with the increasing advancement of Taliban insurgents, has caused severe headaches in Brussels, as Europe fears a new migration wave from the east, an EU diplomat told EURACTIV. “The post-US Afghanistan poses severe challenges with regard to migration as we expect an increasing number of people attempting to flee from Taliban”, he said. Read more.

LEBANESE SANCTIONS? Led by France, the EU is seeking to ramp up pressure on Lebanon’s squabbling politicians after 11 months of a crisis that has left Lebanon facing financial collapse, hyperinflation, electricity blackouts, and fuel and food shortages.

The move is part of broader international efforts to force a stable government capable of carrying out crucial reforms to emerge from nearly a year of political chaos and economic collapse following a blast that ravaged Beirut port.

FRESH START? EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell said the bloc was ready for a “fresh start” with Israel as Foreign Minister Yair Lapid visited Brussels, but urged progress on peace efforts. Both sides said they were aiming to resume meetings of the EU-Israel Association Council, a rather controversial move for some.

TRANSATLANTIC LINK

SWANSONG VISIT. German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited US President Joe Biden in the White House on Thursday in what was likely her last trip to Washington after nearly 16 years in power.

Ahead of the visit, EURACTIV Germany had contacted politicians and analysts as details over the West’s strategy toward China and the future of Nord Stream 2 pipeline were set to determine the sustainability of the touted fresh start.

Fun fact: In her tenure, Merkel visited the United States at least 19 times, including 11 visits to the White House, according to the Office of the Historian at the Department of State.

DEFENCE CORNER

SPACE FORCE(S). NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) joined forces this week in the battle against climate change, a move they said paves the way to a global response to the problem.

At the same time, Germany’s first space command centre, with defence operations including military reconnaissance, the overseeing of satellites and tracking of dangerous space junk, was officially inaugurated.

STRATEGIC AUTONOMY? Defense News has released its Top 100 list, which offers hints of how the broader international defence market has coped during the pandemic. Spoiler alert: No EU-based defence company in the Top10.

SPY WARNING. Britain’s top domestic spymaster will caution the population to treat the threat of spies from Russia and China as vigilantly as terrorism, warning that foreign spies were seeking to pilfer technology, sow discord and attack infrastructure.

ENLARGEMENT LATEST

EXPERTS SAY. The EU has lost the battle for the Balkans, where Russia and China are offering bonuses without asking for reforms, geopolitical experts told an event organised by EURACTIV Bulgaria this week, proposing increased cooperation and a Balkan common market as the best way forward.

EURASIA DIGEST

UNDER ATTACK. Thousands rallied in Georgia earlier this week demanding that the government resign, following the death of a TV cameraman who had been badly beaten by far-right assailants during a protest against an LGBTQ Pride march.

Four independent Georgian TV stations suspended broadcasts for 24 hours on Wednesday in protest over attacks against journalists and the death of a cameraman.


WHAT ELSE WE’RE READING 

ON OUR RADAR FOR THE NEXT FEW DAYS…

Europe’s everyday business is still stuck in lockdown reality, until further notice. We’ll keep you updated on all relevant EU foreign affairs news, as Europe is in the home stretch towards summer break.

  • World powers meet on Iran nuclear deal
    | Monday, 19 July 2021 | Vienna, Austria
  • EU hosts meeting between Vucic and Kurti
    | Monday, 19 July 2021 | Brussels, Belgium
  • Ukraine holds military drills with US, Poland, Lithuania
    | Monday, 19 July 2021 | Yavoriv, Ukraine
  • Turkish President Erdogan may reopen beach in Varosha ghost town
    | Tuesday, 20 July 2021 | Nicosia, Cyprus
  • G20 environment, climate and energy ministers meet
    | Thursday, 22 July 2021 | Naples, Italy

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