Czech foreign minister says time not ripe to reassess EU policy towards Cuba

At a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said the time was not yet ripe for the EU to reassess its policy towards Cuba in connection with the recent release of political prisoners. Mr. Schwarzenberg said that although the move was a sign of progress, Cuba was still far from functioning as a democracy. Drawing a parallel to communist Czechoslovakia, the Czech foreign minister said Cuba had moved from the hardline 1950s to the 1970s in its development. He pointed out that in the 1970s the Czechoslovak communist regime also had an interest in expelling dissidents from the country and preventing them from returning. The EU has conditioned any dialogue with Havana on an observance of human rights and some member states, such as Spain, have suggested it may be time to revise its tough line.

The Czech Republic on Monday also supported an EU move to level tougher sanctions against Iran in a dispute over its nuclear programme. They include a block on oil and gas investment.