Europe Excludes Cuba From Aid Funds

The European Union has excluded Cuba from a multibillion-dollar pool of aid because of its poor human rights record and lack of democracy, a spokesman for a group of former European colonies said Friday.

Cuba is a new member of the African Caribbean Pacific group, or ACP, which is holding a leaders' summit at a palm-fringed island resort near the Fijian town of Nadi. The 63 national delegations are trying to forge a single negotiating position ahead of trade talks with Brussels in September.

Central to the talks is a 25-year pact signed by the EU and ACP in 2000, known as the Cotonou agreement, which promises $12.7 billion in aid to ACP states over the next five years if they show efforts to improve human rights and root out corruption.

As a latecomer to the ACP, Cuba has not signed Cotonou.

EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, who is attending the summit, on Friday rejected overtures from ACP leaders to give Cuba quick access to the agreement, said ACP spokesman Hegel Goutier.

The EU believes Cuba cannot satisfy basic principles of the agreement, especially with respect to democracy and human rights, said Billie Miller, deputy prime minister of Barbados, who heads the Caribbean grouping at the summit.

Miller said she had formally appealed on behalf of Caribbean nations to the EU to fast track Cuba's inclusion.

The head of Cuba's delegation, Ricardo Cabrisas, called the EU decision "a humiliation and slap in the face for Cuba," Goutier said.

Lamy told delegates that the EU wanted to see more political reform from Havana, Goutier said.