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EU official says bloc eyes changes to Cuba policy

January 17, 2014

MADRID (AP) — A senior European Union official said Friday the bloc is considering changes to its policy on Cuba.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told reporters during a visit to Madrid that the EU “is discussing, internally, the possibility of modifications” to its Cuba policy, though any changes would require the blessing of all the bloc’s 28 member countries.

Barroso didn’t elaborate, but he reaffirmed the EU’s long-standing insistence that Cuba must respect human rights and introduce democratic reforms.

“It’s very important for Cuba to respect human rights, it’s very important for Cuba not to have any political prisoners, it’s very important to have freedom of expression,” Barroso said.

He added: “Everything positive that can be done in Cuba to open up the country to full democratic rights will be beneficial.”

His comments came after a series of reforms in Cuba since Raul Castro became president in 2006, including opening up Internet access, and allowing Cubans to run their own businesses and travel abroad without asking permission from the government.

However, Cuban authorities still consider the island’s small community of dissidents to be subversive counterrevolutionaries who take foreign money to try to undermine the Communist system.

Cuba has had rocky relations with the EU. Ties soured dramatically in 2003 when Havana jailed 75 dissidents in a crackdown, prompting Brussels to tighten sanctions. The last of those prisoners walked free in 2011, and Cuba has cleared its lockups of internationally recognized prisoners of conscience. Cuba denies holding any political prisoners.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who appeared alongside Barroso, did not comment on the Cuba policy.

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