I propose to take Questions Nos. 51 and 56 together.
The 1996 Helms Burton Act is a US federal law which strengthens and continues 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.
This development has been noted by Ireland and our EU partners and I can confirm that the Helms-Burton Act was recently discussed at the EU Council Working Party on Transatlantic Relations (COTRA ), at which Ireland was represented at official level. A presentation was given by the European External Action Service on this development and on the potential risks impacting the EU and its economic operators.
It is not clear at this stage what this move to a 45-day waiver period means for Irish and other EU entities that have operations in/with Cuba. My officials are in close contact with the EU Commission on this matter and are monitoring the situation closely.
This issue was also raised in a recent meeting between officials from my Department and the Ambassador of Cuba to Ireland. Officials reiterated Ireland’s longstanding position on the US embargo against Cuba, which I have voiced myself on a number of occasions. We believe that the embargo serves no constructive purpose and that the lifting of the embargo 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, we have 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.