Havel recalls the state of relationships between dissidents and Western embassies during the Cold War, in which a subtle dance was done by the latter to give some manner of recognition to people like Havel. That has all changed now between the EU and Cuba:
Zapatero might have wisely pulled Spanish troops out of Iraq, but it's hard to argue with Havel on this one.
...I cannot recall any occasion at that time when the West or any of its organizations (NATO, the European Community, etc.) issued some public appeal, recommendation or edict stating that some specific group of independently minded people -- however defined -- were not to be invited to diplomatic parties, celebrations or receptions.
But today this is happening. One of the strongest and most powerful democratic institutions in the world -- the European Union -- has no qualms in making a public promise to the Cuban dictatorship that it will re-institute diplomatic Apartheid. The EU's embassies in Havana will now craft their guest lists in accordance with the Cuban government's wishes. The shortsightedness of socialist Prime Minister José Zapatero of Spain has prevailed.
Try to imagine what will happen: At each European embassy, someone will be appointed to screen the list, name by name, and assess whether and to what extent the persons in question behave freely or speak out freely in public, to what extent they criticize the regime, or even whether they are former political prisoners. Lists will be shortened and deletions made, and this will frequently entail eliminating even good personal friends of the diplomats in charge of the screening, people whom they have given various forms of intellectual, political or material assistance. It will be even worse if the EU countries try to mask their screening activities by inviting only diplomats to embassy celebrations in Cuba.
I can hardly think of a better way for the EU to dishonor the noble ideals of freedom, equality and human rights that the Union espouses -- indeed, principles that it reiterates in its constitutional agreement. To protect European corporations' profits from their Havana hotels, the Union will cease inviting open-minded people to EU embassies, and we will deduce who they are from the expression on the face of the dictator and his associates. It is hard to imagine a more shameful deal.
Cuba's dissidents will, of course, happily do without Western cocktail parties and polite conversation at receptions. This persecution will admittedly aggravate their difficult struggle, but they will naturally survive it. The question is whether the EU will survive it.
Today, the EU is dancing to Fidel Castro's tune. That means that tomorrow it could bid for contracts to build missile bases on the coast of the People's Republic of China. The following day it could allow its decisions on Chechnya to be dictated by Russian President Vladimir Putin's advisors. Then, for some unknown reason, it could make its assistance to Africa conditional on fraternal ties with the worst African dictators.
Where will it end? The release of Milosevic? Denying a visa to Russian human-rights activist Sergey Kovalyov? An apology to Saddam Hussein? The opening of peace talks with al Qaeda?