Vaclav Havel Bitch Slaps the E.U.

Via Instapundit via the Volokh Conspiracy

The E.U. has made an odd decision:

“The EU’s embassies in Havana will now craft their guest lists in accordance with the Cuban government’s wishes.”

V.H. is not happy:

“I can hardly think of a better way for the EU to dishonor the noble ideals of freedom, equality and human rights that the Union espouses…Today, the EU is dancing to Fidel Castro’s tune. That means that tomorrow it could bid for contracts to build missile bases on the coast of the People’s Republic of China…It is suicidal for the EU to draw on Europe’s worst political traditions, the common denominator of which is the idea that evil must be appeased and that the best way to achieve peace is through indifference to the freedom of others…Such policies expose an indifference to one’s own freedom and pave the way for war”

Ooh! That’s gotta hurt!

I don’t like to think of myself as an E.U. basher, and I realize that diplomacy requires certain concessions to local reality, but in this case the E.U. has, like a puppy, crawled towards Castro on its belly and then flipped over on its back and urinated on itself.

How people who can’t stand up to a little two-bit provocateur like Castro think they can “counter balance” America is beyond me. They’ll have to grow a spine first.

12 thoughts on “Vaclav Havel Bitch Slaps the E.U.”

  1. Especially an old goat who’s dying.

    They know he’s going, they want to sign the contracts before our Cuban-Americans go back.

  2. Shannon,
    If the EU had an ability to feel shame, they would be red at Havel’s words. The news stories seem to be contradictory – whether the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and the Netherlands were allowed to manage their own invitation lists (imagine that) or that they have finally agreed to Cuba’s terms. Whatever the final outcome, we are not surprised the hold-outs are “New Europe.”

    The whole piece is worth reading (short but, well, uplifting). I never tire of Havel, he runs such a counter to the usual European nihilism.

    By the way, The Diplomad is bitter (isn’t he always, but spending a life observing such maneuvers must be kind of like a life of bartending – you don’t see the best in the human race), but he also gives more context.

    And, yes, Havel needs to be Secretary General. (See earlier post.)

  3. Does anyone have link that proves that allegation, besides a blogpost? Last week’s claim that the EU was blackmailing Thailand turned out to be complete bunk, after all.

  4. Shannon,

    you might want to look at this:

    BRUSSELS, Belgium ยท European Union foreign ministers agreed Monday to restore normal diplomatic relations with the Cuban government while pledging to increase contacts with critics of President Fidel Castro.

    But the EU insisted it would continue to raise human rights issues and demanded the “urgent” and “unconditional” release of all dissidents, including the 75 given prison terms of up to 28 years in 2003.

    EU ends freeze on Cuba relations – Bloc still intends to increase ties with dissidents

    I think this is a tempest in a teapot, as usual, especially since the measure is strictly temporary, as I have read elsewhere, depending on Cuba being on its best behavior.

  5. Ralf, I don’t agree with you on this. Why is the EU choosing now to end its freeze? The Cuban regime hasn’t done anything to justify it. Absent a relaxation of persecution in Cuba, the EU action comes across as cynical and self-interested no matter how they try to spin it.

  6. Jonathan, lets wait and see. Cuba has released 14 of the 75 dissidents that had been arrested and convicted since June. I strongly suspect that the other 61 are going to follow soon. If they aren’t, relations will be frozen again.

    I agree that it is distasteful, but then again, taking a hard line is no solution eithe. Without the American trade embargo Castro would probably long gone; trade is the best cway to open up societies. I also don’t see what self-interest the EU is supposed to pursue here. The representatives of businesses that invest in property owned by Cuban exiles usually are barred from entering the United States; that’s a pretty effective deterrent.

  7. The article doesn’t address Havel’s point – a description made elsewhere in the blogosphere – that dissidents were not to be invited to embassy receptions, etc. Is your impression that they are to be welcomed at those or merely that the EU is going to continue saying it is in favor of civil rights? I don’t know the answer. If I had to bet, I’d go with the quite different tones and “issues” of the voices of Havel and the Diplomad who both think there is a there there.

    Also, your syntax implies the prisoners were arrested in June and many have been released in the time between then and now; they were arrested (clearly with an eye toward the US) in April 2003, shortly after three were executed for the crime of wanting to leave that island of high literacy and universal health care, the model state.

  8. No, I meant that 14 were released since June 2004, not 2003. And if I understand the article correctly the EU won’t invite dissidents to the embassies, but will keep close ties to them. They obviously hope that Cuba will release more than the 14, and possibly all of them.

  9. Ralf Goergens,

    I think Vaclav Havel’s main criticism still stands i.e. the EU has granted Castro veto power over whom the EU invites to its embassies. No matter how nobel their goals, they are conforming their moral standards to the dictator not the other way around.

    The EU has a bigger carrot with which to influence Cuba than any other entity but it refuses to use that power aggressively. I’m with Havel on this. It looks like old habit die hard.

  10. Ralf, I hope that you are correct, but I am skeptical. They only released 14. The EU should have held out for all of them to be released as a prerequisite for any discussions. Otherwise the commies have a strong incentive to imprison dissidents every time they want something from the EU. I think that in these situations it is very important for the good guys to avoid the trap of thinking that if the dictator persecutes people and then later lets some of them go, that that is necessarily progress. It isn’t always progress: sometimes it’s manipulation. The best way to deal with gangsters like Castro is to make clear that the only way they will get anything from you is by systematically reducing their abuse of and control over their countrymen, and then sticking to your policy. The EU is too weak to do that and it is getting rolled.

    BTW, Ginny is right about the diplomatic invitations, a point which reinforces my argument.

    And I don’t know whether the US embargo is a good idea, but it’s not what’s keeping Castro in power. Castro remains in power for two reasons: 1) he has a local monopoly on force and uses it, and 2) the US doesn’t think it’s worth overthrowing him. I doubt that the embargo has much effect either way, especially since many countries ignore it.

    About your last point: I assume that you are referring to the Helms-Burton law, which IMO is a morally and politically justified law. It is intended to discourage non-US citizens from trafficking in property that Castro stole from Cuban citizens, some of whom now live in the USA. I realize that many Europeans and Canadians consider this US policy to be somehow silly and unjust (to them). However, I have never heard a defense of the European view that was based on anything other than the short-term expediency of European business people. Indeed I am astonished that some Europeans think that there is nothing wrong with doing business with a regime whose assets are entirely the product of theft.

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