Page last updated at 16:17 GMT, Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Spain chides Cuba over MEP's trip

Luis Yanez, Spanish socialist MEP
Mr Yanez has promoted contacts with Cuban dissidents

Spain has complained to Cuba about its refusal to let a Spanish Euro MP visit the island - but Madrid says this will not obstruct efforts to improve ties.

Socialist MEP Luis Yanez was denied entry at the weekend. He said it was a private trip, but admitted he had plans to meet pro-democracy activists.

Spain summoned Cuba's ambassador on Tuesday and expressed its dismay.

But Spain - currently holding the EU presidency - said it would still try to get the EU to ease its stance on Cuba.

The communist authorities detained Mr Yanez and his wife at Havana airport before putting them on a plane back to Spain on Monday.

Spain wants the EU to move away from its "common position" on Cuba, adopted in 1996, which makes a normalisation of ties contingent on Havana improving human rights.

Sweden and the Czech Republic - Spain's immediate predecessors in the EU presidency - are reluctant to change that position.

Cuban 'mistake'

Cuba's ambassador, Alejandro Gonzalez Galiano, was quoted as saying Mr Yanez was denied entry "due to the application of Cuban domestic laws".

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said: "This is not good news - I think the Cubans made a mistake."

But he added that "a chapter of dialogue has opened with Cuba".

"Isolation, confrontation, the embargo and the blockade [against Cuba]... has produced no result in 50 years," he said.

Mr Yanez has promoted contacts between European socialists and democratic Cuban dissidents, the Associated Press news agency reports.

He heads the European Parliament's committee on relations with Mercosur, the South American trade bloc.

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