The 1996 Helms Burton Act is a US federal law which reinforces the US's long standing economic embargo against Cuba.
Since 1996, European persons or entities have remained potentially affected by the extraterritorial elements in Titles III and IV of the Act, but a 1998 Memorandum of Understanding between the EU and US has waived Title III every six months and, as a result, European persons and entities have been protected from the relevant provisions of the Act.
On 16 January 2019, the US State Department announced that the next waiver, effective from 1 February 2019, would have a duration of 45 days only, the first time since the Act’s promulgation that the US has not waived Title III for six months. In late April, the US Administration announced that it would suspend these waivers, potentially exposing EU persons and entities to extraterritorial elements of the Act.
Developments over January to April were noted and followed closely by Ireland and our EU partners. Ireland’s reaction to the suspension of waivers, announced in late April, remains in lock-step with that of our EU partners. We also echo the statement made on 2 May by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, which stated that "The EU considers the extra-territorial application of unilateral restrictive measures to be contrary to international law and will draw on all appropriate measures to address the effects of the Helms-Burton Act, including in relation to its WTO rights and through the use of the EU Blocking Statute."
This issue has also been raised in contacts between officials from my Department and the Ambassador of Cuba to Ireland. Officials have reiterated Ireland’s longstanding position on the US embargo against Cuba, a position I have also expressed publicly on a number of occasions. Ireland believes that the embargo serves no constructive purpose and that its lifting would facilitate an opening of the island’s economy to the benefit of its people. In addition, we and our EU partners are not persuaded that the continued embargo is contributing in a positive way to the democratic transition in Cuba.
Together with our EU partners, Ireland has firmly and continuously opposed extraterritorial measures that seek to extend the US embargo against Cuba to third countries as contrary to commonly accepted rules of international trade. Our position in this regard was set out most recently at the UN General Assembly on 1 November last year in the context of the resolution on the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the US against Cuba.
We will continue to liaise closely with our EU partners on this issue and my officials will continue to monitor the issue closely, particularly for any implications for Irish citizens or entities.