The leader of the Liberal group in the European Parliament has slammed the bloc’s Foreign Minister and top diplomat for failing to raise human rights concerns on a trip to Communist Cuba.
High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini used the trip to boast that the EU is now Cuba’s most important trading partner, and also met with dictator Raúl Castro.
She also made a subtle dig at President Donald J. Trump, saying the EU would continue the approach to Cuba championed by predecessor Barack Obama “regardless of the changes in policy in Washington.”
“Nearly 900 arbitrary detentions of government critics take place in Cuba every month,” blasted Guy Verhofstadt, a federalist, anti-Brexit MEP who was formerly Prime Minister of Belgium and currently leads the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) in the European Parliament.
“Federica Mogherini just visited the island but didn’t meet civil society representatives or political opposition. What a missed opportunity and weak, regrettable strategy!”
Ms. Mogherini arrived in the murderous one-party state on Wednesday, aiming to strengthen its ties with the EU.
Blockading Cuba is not the solution, the European Union's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says on a trip aimed at strengthening ties with Havana, after Washington tightened restrictions on the island. pic.twitter.com/QEfzydwcyp
— AFP news agency (@AFP) January 4, 2018
The EU said in a statement that Ms. Mogherini’s visit “reconfirms the strong EU-Cuban relationship” and that she would push for an “ambitious and swift joint implementation of the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement.”
“I was here visiting just a few days before the visit of President Obama, and I remember at the time there was much talk about Cuba strengthening relations with both the European Union and the United States,” Ms. Mogherini told Reuters when asked about Mr. Trump’s rollback of ties with Cuba.
“Regardless of the changes in policy in Washington, the message I am bringing here is that the friendship and relationship with the EU is here to stay. It’s solid, it’s stable and it’s reliable,” she said.
Just as U.S. relations deteriorated with Cuba, the EU dropped all sanctions and opened up trade with the island in December 2016.