PRAGUE – One of the fundamental pillars of Europe’s political architecture is a strong and enduring belief in the universal validity of equal, universal, and inalienable human rights. At the core of this is a belief in the rights of human beings to a life of freedom and the protection of their dignity.
In the years after World War II, this humanist ideal became the basis of Europe’s spiritual and political identity and hence it is contained in the founding documents of the European Union. Of course, this does not mean that the EU could or would want to conquer the rest of the world in the name of imposing its values, rules and culture on the rest of humanity. Far from it. What Europe’s devotion to humanism does mean, however, is a determination, no matter the circumstances, to stand firm and not abandon the fundamentals of European civilization and European unification. As a result, Europe places a primary emphasis on the universality of human rights and freedoms.
To be sure, there are many places around the globe where human rights and civil liberties continue to be trampled underfoot: North Korea, Iran, Burma, Tibet, Zimbabwe, and many others. This week, a meeting of the EU’s General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) will discuss once more relations between the EU and Cuba.
Despite repeated reminders from the EU, the Cuban government has done none of the things that the Union has been urging it to do for many years – above all, to release all political prisoners and stop the persecution of independent civil-society groups and the regime’s political opponents. On the contrary, the Cuban government continues to detain prisoners of conscience and to criminalize demands for a society-wide dialogue.