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EU summons ambassador to Cuba over letter to Biden

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has instructed the bloc’s ambassador to Cuba to return to Brussels “to provide explanations” for the decision to sign a controversial letter to U.S. President Joe Biden.

The summoning of the EU ambassador, Alberto Navarro, comes after 16 MEPs — including several senior lawmakers — this week sent a letter to Borrell urging the diplomatic chief to fire Navarro.

The MEPs criticized several actions by the ambassador, most notably his “unacceptable initiative” earlier this month to sign an open letter to Biden urging the U.S. president “to personally take executive action” to lift business and travel restrictions against Cuba. The letter urged the U.S. to “stop being a hostile neighbor” to Cuba and to “stop interfering in our domestic affairs.”

“We have received [the MEPs] letter and have requested the ambassador to come to Brussels to provide explanations” to Borrell, said an EU spokesperson in response to questions from POLITICO. “In the meantime, we have asked him to provide a note detailing the matter.”

While the spokesperson did not comment on whether Borrell would sack the ambassador, his summoning to Brussels can be seen as a strong reprimand.

Borrell himself publicly criticized the U.S. embargo against Cuba during a press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov earlier this month. However, the fact that a top EU diplomat — seemingly on his own initiative — signed a letter making demands of the U.S. leader raised eyebrows, with the MEPs noting he addressed “a government of a third country, a friend and ally of the EU, to which he is not accredited.” The other signatories of the letter to Biden were mostly ordinary Cuban citizen including artists, professors, journalists and university students.

In their complaint to Borrell, the MEPs called the ambassador’s action “a serious act in a totally unfortunate and erratic line of action regarding what should be the defense of our interests and values.”

“Such a behavior, in addition to being inappropriate, is completely alien to the functions and standards of conduct that should govern a diplomatic representative of the EU,” wrote the MEPs, who included the European Parliament’s vice president for relations with Latin America, Dita Charanzová, and the vice chair of the center-right European People’s Party group, Esteban González Pons.

“We consider that the current ambassador is not worthy of the high functions he holds and is entrusted with and we strongly request you to proceed with his immediate replacement,” they wrote.

The U.S. business and travel restrictions on Cuba had been lifted by former U.S. President Barack Obama in 2014, but were re-introduced by Donald Trump in 2017.

While the EU condemned Trump’s move, the European Parliament has pressured the bloc to dial down the criticism and find a joint position with the U.S. on Cuba since Biden entered the White House.

This story has been updated.

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