The Commissar for Aid and Development, the Belgian Louis Michel, has just paid a four-day visit to Cuba, one of the last outposts of totalitarian communism. Not that you would guess it from M Michel’s comments.
Apparently, unperceived by anyone except the EU’s Commissioners and the Spanish government, Cuba has made some very satisfactory developments in its human rights policies, thus justifying the fact that the EU has decided to suspend its sanctions on that country. (The only reason they were suspended and not lifted outright was that the pesky East Europeans, who know totalitarian communism when they see it, protested.)
Apparently M Michel was allowed to meet families of imprisoned dissidents for a whole hour and, he added breathlessly, the government did not interfere with these meetings. Gosh! Wow!
I shall instantly throw away my copies of John Stuart Mill’s writings as well as those of Andrei Sakharov, Karl Popper and Friedrich Hayek, replacing them with the collected speeches of the new hero of liberal thinking: Fidel Castro. (I think I just about have enough room in my house for all those interminable speeches.)
One may jest but Commissar Michel takes these matters seriously. On the basis of this amazing display of freedom and openness he has announced that there will be no EU support for a planned congress of dissident groups and he has also advised pro-democracy activists not to “provoke Fidel Castro”. Try as they might, their political colours will show through.
The EU and M Michel were roundly condemned for their stupidity and dishonesty by the dissident economist Marta Beatriz Roque, who said:
“The government is not going to change. Castro is deaf. Sanctions have a political value because they demonstrate to the whole world that Castro is a human rights abuser. The EU should not be seeking deeper relations with a totalitarian regime. The fact that we could meet Mr Michel one day, for an hour, is an isolated phenomenon.How nice of her to assume that M Michel is intelligent and how much nicer not to mention the obvious words: fellow traveller. After all, have we not seen this phenomenon over and over again in the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, Vietnam, Kampuchea, wherever there is a jackboot stamping down on a human face, as George Orwell so memorably said?
The Cuban government allowed it to take place so the EU would see what the authorities wanted them to see. I don't understand how Mr Michel, who is an intelligent person, can think that he understands Cuba in the short time that he was here.”
That, I fear, is the true reality of the EU’s supersoft power that is supposedly extended through barely perceived influence: an admiration for all dictators, particularly those on the left. What are we doing in this mess?