Since March 2016, Civil Rights Defenders (CRD) has been campaigning to make public the wording of a Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and Cuba.
Considering Cuba's abysmal human rights record, early transparency throughout the drafting process was essential to allow civil society the opportunity to influence EU demands on Cuba when it comes to human rights and democracy.
Both Sweden and the EU had reasoned that the justification for restricting access to the document was due to possible problems that could arise as they strived to build a relationship with the totalitarian state. This, however, meant that civil society from both sides of the Atlantic were unable to influence the content of the agreement especially crucial in a country where hundreds of political activists and human rights defenders are detained, threatened and harassed every week.
On September 22, Civil Rights Defenders received the following response from the European External Action Service (EEAS) stating that the document was finally released, following the Commission's adoption of it:
With reference to your request for disclosure of the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement negotiated between the EU and Cuba and the replies we sent to you on 27 April and 26 May 2016 – when the document was still provisional and undergoing internal scrutiny, we are pleased to inform you that the document is now considered final and that we can therefore send you the requested texts.
The European Commission adopted its proposal to Council on the signing of the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and its Member States, on the one part, and Cuba, on the other part, on 21 September 2016. You will find a copy of the proposal and the text of the agreement in annex.
We thank you for your comprehension and patience.
Releasing the text only after the Commission had adopted it makes scrutiny by the public and civil society a fruitless exercise as no significant changes can be made at this stage.
Erik Jennische, CRD's Programme Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, lamented the lack of transparency:
"After a lengthy campaign to have the document released, from both Cuban and European human rights organizations, it was sad to learn that neither the EU nor the Cuban government were interested in discussing its content with civil society. Such a move demonstrates a complete lack of transparency and constructive attitude towards human rights defenders in one of the last totalitarian states in the Western world."