Vienna, 7 November 2008 Press release

Winkler: State Secretary Winkler meets Dagoberto Rodriguez, Deputy Foreign Minister of Cuba

Vienna, 7 November 2008 – State Secretary Hans Winkler had a work meeting today with the Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Dagoberto Rodriguez. The talks focused on foreign policy and global issues. These political consultations between Austria and Cuba are taking place at a time during which relations between the EU and Cuba are characterized by a general easing of tensions. In mid-October 2008 political dialogue was resumed on a foreign minister level with the EU Troika in Paris for the first time after more than five years. Shortly afterwards, the Cuban Government agreed to resume cooperation with the EU, which had been frozen since 2003.

"In the case of Cuba, too, it became obvious that a policy of constructive and open dialogue is the right approach. Only this will give us the necessary room for European reactions to the political developments and anticipated changes in Cuba. Today, we maintain a dialogue with Cuba on all central topics, including human rights", stressed Winkler.

"Under its new President Raúl Castro, Cuba has so far not undertaken any far-reaching reforms of its political system. Nevertheless, we should not undervalue the first and prudent steps toward openness, which is also demanded by the people in Cuba. The prudent transformation in Cuba presents opportunities. We should seize these opportunities. Therefore, I am looking forward to an ever expanding cooperation between Cuba and Austria and the EU within the framework of the United Nations, as well as in other multinational forums" said Winkler, stressing that all EU partners are interested in a peaceful change in Cuba and in a greater participation of Cuba in bilateral and biregional treaties and integration forums.

Winkler also took advantage of the meeting to support the case of progress in the field of non-proliferation. Austria is currently presiding over the Conference on Article XIV together with Costa Rica. "The efforts should not be confined to a few countries; instead, there must be a general change in the approach to the most terrible of weapons. Any delay in the quick implementation of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) increases the risk of new nuclear weapon tests and poses a threat to the current disarmament efforts", said Winkler, who also urged Cuba to ratify the treaty. "Only five states in the region still need to complete the ratification process, and then Latin America and the Caribbean could become the second world region in which this treaty applies to all states".

Another topic discussed during the meeting was the catastrophic impact of hurricanes "Ike" and "Gustav". Winkler expressed his sympathy for the numerous casualties and huge devastation in Cuba, yet also his satisfaction for the fact that Cuba accepted EU aid and immediate bilateral assistance from some EU Member States.

Federal Ministry for
European and International Affairs
Katharina Swoboda
Office of the State Secretary
Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3469