Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA) Effect on Human Rights

4015 words (16 pages) Essay in International Law

24/04/19 International Law Reference this

Last modified: 24/04/19 Author: Law student

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Will the bilateral Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA) between the Republic of Cuba and the European Union (EU) help to ameliorate human rights, freedom of expression, and the socio-economic model in Cuba?

This essay will critically analyse whether the bilateral Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement between the Republic of Cuba and the European Union will help to improve human rights and freedom of expression in Cuba. The Republic of Cuba has a severely restricted economy due to the United States blockade – enforced in 1962[1] and has relied on trading with Latin America and the European Union to sustain the economy.[2] The EU is Cuba’s second biggest trading partner, after Venezuela, and the largest foreign investor in Cuban culture, tourism, hospitality, and travel.[3]

Cuba has a total population of 11.4 million people, a Gross National Income per capita of $5880 (almost the worldwide average), a 99.7% literacy rate, a 79 year life expectancy at birth, unemployment rests at 3.3%, and 48.9% of Parliamentary seats are female-led.[4] Cuba has one of the highest gender equalities in the world.[5] The Cuban Constitution of 1976 guarantees; jobs, medical care, support for disabled people, education for young people, access to food, clothing, and access to sport and culture.[6]

However, human rights activists such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International claim that Cuba have a problem with imprisoning political dissidents, that human rights activists are beaten and harassed, and that the Damas de Blanco (an opposition movement created by families of jailed dissidents) have faced multiple imprisonments for opposing the Government during Mass whilst wearing white clothing (which is seen as a symbol of oppression).[7]

The documented human rights violations led to Cuba’s application to join the Cotonou Partnership Agreement between the EU and developing countries in the Pacific, Africa, and the Caribbean, being rejected.[8] The rejection of this application led to the unanimous vote to impose diplomatic restrictions on high-level visits to Cuba and sanctions restricting EU participation in Cuban social events. It also led to the EU inviting political dissidents to celebrate European national holidays, leading the Media to refer to these events as ‘The Cocktail War’ emulating between Cuba and the EU.[9] Fidel Castro then referred to the EU as a “gang mafia under the control of the United States”[10]

The relationship between the EU and Cuba has been tumultuous, with the EU implementing a ‘common position’ –  established by the Council of the European Union on the basis of the Treaty on European Union[11] in 2009 – in order to improve relations between the European Union and Cuba.[12] This position offered trade in exchange for the Cuban Government to take steps to improve human rights and freedom of expression, including a request for Cuba to ratify International Human Rights Conventions[13]. Cuba did not ratify the International Human Rights Convention but did ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which is a treaty based on the Universal Declaration for Human Rights.[14]

The ‘common position’ was repealed by the European Council in 2016 under Article 28 therein of the Treaty on European Union[15] in order to establish the PDCA which became the new international legal framework setting out the conditions of the agreement between the EU and Cuba. The repeal of the ‘common position’ was not without criticism with the Former British Ambassador to Cuba stating that “changing the common position can only happen if the EU is willing to ignore human rights and freedom of expression”.[16]

The PDCA provides the international legal framework for relations between the two entities and sets out the conditionality clause that the EU will trade with Cuba if they take steps to improve human rights and freedom of expression. Conditionality clauses such as this are common across trading agreements in the European Union; Latvia were given the conditionality clause to ratify the Framework Convention on National Minorities before they would be allowed to become a member state of the European Union[17], for example.

The European Union created a ‘Global Europe Strategy’ which, in reference to external trading, placed importance on comprehensive Free Trade Agreements, rather than focusing heavily on multilateral trade deals, which allows market access to countries with lucrative markets, such as Asia[18]. Using Free Trade Agreements, the European Union can pursue deep trade agreements at a higher level than is expected by the World Trading Organisation by implementing conditionality clauses aimed at deep political, social, or economic issues behind borders.[19]

The PDCA  was ratified by the European Union and Cuba in 2016 with the aim to improve political dialogue, encourage an improvement in human rights, fundamental freedoms, and encourage international communication between the two using  international legal frameworks which both countries have agreed to under this agreement, including both the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a basis for these improvements. 

The three main pillars of this agreement are; to improve trade and trade cooperation, to improve sector policy dialogue, and to improve the political dialogue including; human rights, freedom of expression, and with the overall intention of helping to ameliorate the Cuban socio-economic model.[20] Whilst this agreement aims to improve economic relations, it is questionable as to how much impact this agreement can have with the United States economic blockade still in place. This blockade aims to stop the importation and exportation of food, using international sanctions on countries that trade with Cuba[21]. As the European Union is made up of 27 member states and have the biggest economic trading bloc in the world, they can offer protection against the United States, hence becoming Cuba’s second biggest trading partner after Venezuela.[22]

The PDCA has a number of principles in which both parties to the agreement have to abide by. Principle six of the PDCA states that Cuba has the freedom to freely determine their political system, and yet one of the main aims of this agreement is to improve the Cuban socio-economic model and promote democracy. Is it possible to improve a socio-economic model if the Government are cautious of interventionism and rarely carry out democratic processes?[23] Is it possible to accept EU humanitarian aid and foreign investments but still maintain hard-fought sovereignty?

Based solely on the Cuban Government accusing the EU of ‘interventionism’ during the ‘common position’ years, despite the EU having a clear collective foreign policy with ‘common positions’ and political dialogues with many countries, the likelihood of an improvement of human rights, freedom of expression and the socio-economic model is relatively low. This combined with the western pull of democracy, in terms of the conditionality clauses, could lead to tensions rising again, as they have previously; with the EU placing hard sanctions on Cuba for imprisoning political dissidents, refusing EU humanitarian aid, and banning high level political visits.[24]

The main reason that the ‘common position’ lacked the ability to improve human rights and freedom of expression is due to the Cuban Government becoming concerned that the EU were interfering with internal Cuban affairs and started to distance themselves from the EU, with the EU claiming that they were upholding internal standards of democracy.[25] It is worth noting that the PDCA aims to improve democracy within Cuban society – despite Principle Six stating that Cuba can freely determine their own political system – and so if the Cuban Government were to pull away from the EU due to interventionism (as they did during the ‘common position’ – which did not carry any legal weight as it was not a formal piece of legislation, unlike the PDCA) it seems likely that the Cuban Government could pull away from the western democratic processes again. 

In 2004, the EU accepted 12 new member states into membership, including countries such as Poland whom have faced years of political oppression. These countries have rebuilt themselves to such a high standard where they can fulfil 35 criteria (the Copenhagen criteria) in order to become member states.[26] Often, smaller countries gain much more from the EU than the EU receives in exchange.[27] The EU is the largest trading bloc in the world, it would seem that Cuba – with a severely restricted economy – would relish the opportunity to trade, and yet are still having human rights violations documented.[28]

In terms of improving human rights, is having access to free education, health care, homes and food, enough to forgive not having total access to human rights? Limiting access to the internet and other forms of communication could serve to protect Cuban citizens from American propaganda where the ‘American dream’ can provide better jobs and better lives.[29]

The American Government placing sanctions on Cuba in the form of an economic blockade has severely limited the Cuban economy[30] and implementing  a wet-foot/dry foot policy (where Cubans that set foot on American soil automatically become American citizens) only serves to further undermine the Republic. The US blockade was enforced in 1962 after the US attempted to overthrow Fidel Castro by invading the Bay of Pigs. After this failed, Fidel Castro and Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union, came to a deal where soviet nuclear weapons would be stored in Cuba, preventing another invasion. This paved way for the US to put Cuba onto a terrorist watch list and the economic blockade was enforced, however, at the time, the term ‘quarantine’ was used as ‘blockade’ indicates an act of war.[31] These sanctions have forced the Cubans to rebuild their economy; one where Government funded co-operatives are created with individual hierarchies to ensure that jobs are available and the economy is maintained.

It could be argued that the placing of an economic blockade is more of a human rights violation than restricting access to the media and freedom of expression. Whilst neither of these things are particularly nice, on the balance of things, it would appear that the blockade serves its purpose in terms of severely restricting the Cuban people and their economy. The Cuban people already have access to: free healthcare, free education, free food and homes, free clothing, which is much more than other developing countries across the world. Should the denial of freedom of expression be forgiven if all basic human rights are granted?

Is it fair and right that the European Union are implementing conditionality clauses in respect of trading for improvements in human rights and yet there is no sanction against America for implementing the blockade? Perhaps the solution would be for the European Union to take collective action using sanctions against the United States of America in order to pressure them to lift the economic blockade, therefore allowing the Cuban economy to flourish. It is highly unlikely that this would happen without creating international tension which contradicts the EU’s core foundation of keeping peace and stability in Europe, which is why the Treaty of Rome was created.[32]

On the balance of probability, the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement is a positive step forward towards normalising relations using legislation, but erring on the side of caution, the ‘common position’ failed to encourage an improvement in human rights so why would this dialogue improve things? However, the ‘common position’ lacked legal weight, whereas both parties have ratified the PDCA and have accepted it as legislation. To say that the PDCA will fail because the ‘common position’ failed would be improvident, especially factoring in the recent death of Fidel Castro[33], the election of Donald Trump[34], and the consequent upcoming 2018 elections; where Raul Castro will not be standing for re-election.[35] It will be interesting to see whether a change of leadership will improve international relations, human rights, and freedom of expression, especially from a legal, political and economic point of view.

Bibliography

Books

  • Buckman R, Latin America 2014 (1st edn, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers 2014)
  • Feinberg. R, Open For Business (1st edn, Brookings Institution Press 2016)

International Legal Frameworks

  • Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement 2016
  • United Nations Human Rights Commission
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • Treaty on European Union
  • The Cotouou Agreement

Journals

  • Holloway C, ‘Cuban Refugees And The American Dream’ (1976) 8 Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning <http://www.jstor.org/stable/40162655.> accessed 2 May 2017

Online Resources


[1] Robert Kramer, ‘Authority Of The President To Blockade Cuba’ (Justice.Gov, 2017) https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/olc/opinions/1961/01/31/op-olc-supp-v001-p0195.pdf Accessed 2 March 2017

[2] ‘OEC – Cuba (CUB) Exports, Imports, And Trade Partners’ (Atlas.media.mit.edu, 2017) https://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/profile/country/cub/ Accessed 14 March 2017

[3] ‘EU-Cuba Relations, Factsheet  Eeas – European Commission’ (EEAS, 2017) https://eeas.europa.ed/headquarters-homepage_e/16558/EU-Cuba%relations,%20factsheet Accessed 2 April 2017

[4] ‘Cuba’ (Country-facts.findthedata.com, 2017) https://country-facts.findthedata.com/l/18/Cuba Accessed 14 April 2017

[5] Yoani Sanchez, A Caricature of a Cuban Woman, Huffington Post (Aug 23, 2014), online at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yoani-sanchez/a-caricature-of-a-cubanw_b_5702241.html accessed 02 May 2017

[6] The Constitution Of The Republic Of Cuba (1st Edn, Republic Of Cuba 1976).

[7] ‘Las Damas De Blanco (Damasdeblanco.com, 2017) http://damasdeblanco.com/ accessed 2 May 2017

[8] Robert T Buckman Latin America 2014 (1st edn, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers 2014) Page 164

[9] Robert T Buckman Latin America 2014 (1st edn, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers 2014) Page 163

[10] Robert T Buckman Latin America 2014 (1st edn, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers 2014) Page 168

[11] ‘EUR-Lex – 31996E0697 – EN – EUR – Lex’ (Eur-lex.europa.eu, 2017) http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=CELEX:31996E0697 ACCESSED 1 March 2017

[12] ‘The European Union And Cuba: The Common Position’ (coha.org, 2017) http://www.coha.org/the-european-union-and-cuba-the-common-position/ accessed 12 March 2017

[13] Paul Hare, ‘The Odd Couple: The EU And Cuba 1996-2008 Brookings Institution’ (Brookings, 2017) https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-odd-couple-the-eu-and-cuba-1996-1998/ accessed 3 March 2017

[14] Francisco Macias, ‘Cuba: Cuba Signs International Human Rights Agreements With The United Nations Global Legal Monitor’ (LOC.gov, 2017) http://www.loc.gov/law/foreign-news/article/cuba-cuba-signs-international-human-rights-agreements-with-the-united-nations/ accessed 3 March 2017

[15] Foreign and Commonwealth Office, ‘CONSOLIDATED TEXTS OF THE EU TREATIES AS AMENDED BY THE TREATY OF LISBON’ (Secretary Of State For Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs 2008)

[16] Paul Hare, ‘The Odd Couple: The EU And Cuba 1996-2008 Brookings Institution’ (Brookings, 2017) https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-odd-couple-the-eu-and-cuba-1996-1998/ accessed 3 March 2017

[17] ‘EU Conditionality: An Effective Means For Policy Reform?’ (E-International Relations, 2017) http://www.e-ir.info/2013/11/01/eu-conditionality-an-effective-means-for-policy-reform/ accessed 2 May 2017

[18] Billy A Melo Araujo, Intellectual Property And The EU’s Deep Trade Agenda (1st edn, Oxford Studies in European Law 2016)

[19] Billy A Melo Araujo, Intellectual Property And The EU’s Deep Trade Agenda (1st edn, Oxford Studies in European Law 2016)

[20] Council of European Union, ‘Political Dialogue And Cooperation Agreement Between The European Union And Its Member States, Of The One Part, And The Republic Of Cuba, Of The Other Part’ (Council Of European Union 2016)

[21] Robert Kramer, ‘Authority Of The President To Blockade Cuba’ (Justice.Gov, 2017) https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/olc/opinions/1961/01/31/op-olc-supp-v001-p0195.pdf Accessed 2 March 2017

[22] Paul Hare, ‘The Odd Couple: The EU And Cuba 1996-2008 Brookings Institution’ (Brookings, 2017) https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-odd-couple-the-eu-and-cuba-1996-1998/ accessed 3 March 2017

[23] Paul Hare, ‘The Odd Couple: The EU And Cuba 1996-2008 Brookings Institution’ (Brookings, 2017) https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-odd-couple-the-eu-and-cuba-1996-1998/ accessed 3 March 2017

[24] ‘The European Union And Cuba: The Common Position’ (coha.org, 2017) http://www.coha.org/the-european-union-and-cuba-the-common-position/ accessed 12 March 2017

[25] ‘The European Union And Cuba: The Common Position’ (coha.org, 2017) http://www.coha.org/the-european-union-and-cuba-the-common-position/ accessed 12 March 2017

[26] ‘Conditions For Membership – European Neighbourhood Policy And Enlargement Negotiations – European Commission’ (European Neighbourhood Policy And Enlargement Negotiations) <https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/policy/conditions-membership_en> accessed 2 May 2017

[27] Paul Hare, ‘The Odd Couple: The EU And Cuba 1996-2008 Brookings Institution’ (Brookings, 2017) https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-odd-couple-the-eu-and-cuba-1996-1998/ accessed 3 March 2017

[28] ‘Cuba’ (U.S. Department of State, 2017) https://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/countries/2016/258752.htm accessed 14 March 2017

[29] Charles M. Holloway, ‘Cuban Refugees And The American Dream’ (1976) 8 Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning <http://www.jstor.org/stable/40162655.> accessed 2 May 2017.

[30] Billy A Melo Araujo, Intellectual Property And The EU’s Deep Trade Agenda (1st edn, Oxford Studies in European Law 2016)

[31] ‘Milestones: 1961 – 1968 – Office Of The Historian’ (History.state.gov, 2017) https://history.state.gov/milestones/1961-1968/cuban-missile-crisis accessed 2 May 2017

[32]‘The History Of The European Union – European Union Website, The Official EU Website – European Commission’ (European Union Website, the official EU website – European Commission, 2017) https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/history_en accessed 2 May 2017

[33] Rory Carroll and Sam Jones, ‘Fidel Castro, Cuba’s Revolutionary Leader, Dies Aged 90’ (The Guardian, 2017) <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/26/fidel-castro-cuba-revolutionary-icon-dies> accessed 2 May 2017.

[34] Dan Roberts and others, ‘Donald Trump Wins Presidential Election, Plunging US Into Uncertain Future’ (the Guardian, 2017) <https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/09/donald-trump-wins-us-election-news> accessed 2 May 2017.

[35] Patrick Oppmann, ‘Cuban President Raul Castro Says He’ll Leave In 2018 – CNN.Com’ (CNN, 2017) <http://edition.cnn.com/2013/02/24/world/americas/cuba-castro/> accessed 2 May 2017.

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