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EDITORIAL

Shouting quietly in the world of diplomacy

CUBA may be stung a little by the harsh words coming from its former ally condemning its treatment of dissidents, but Slovakia's words alone will not be able to make any great impression on one of the last islands of communism in the world.
Slovakia, after all, has few trade links left with Cuba and there are no actions or threats it could use to back up its displeasure.
However, Slovakia's is not the only voice raised in protest. Because the European Union is also expressing disapproval, the complaint will not go unheard, although it remains to be seen whether Havana will react in any way.

CUBA may be stung a little by the harsh words coming from its former ally condemning its treatment of dissidents, but Slovakia's words alone will not be able to make any great impression on one of the last islands of communism in the world.

Slovakia, after all, has few trade links left with Cuba and there are no actions or threats it could use to back up its displeasure.

However, Slovakia's is not the only voice raised in protest. Because the European Union is also expressing disapproval, the complaint will not go unheard, although it remains to be seen whether Havana will react in any way.

The EU is large enough to exert real pressure on Cuba through trade and aid. However, given the recent lack of a collective stance over the Iraqi crisis it would be premature to suggest that there will be the consensus required to push the point home.

While Cuba suggests Slovakia's recent protests may be all about kow-towing to the United States in return for aid or a piece of the Iraqi reconstruction, it is couching its opinion in very diplomatic terms. After all, Slovakia on the inside of the EU is a friend that Cuba can ill afford to lose.

On the other hand, by keeping its stance on Cuban politics reasonably neutral by issuing protests alongside those of the EU, Slovakia can also distance itself from Fidel Castro and wait for the fall of communism in Cuba, which is unlikely to outlive its charismatic but ageing demagogue.

This case shows two of the benefits that Slovakia would gain as a member of the EU: a larger voice in the world and a layer of obscurity that would allow it to register protests without risking relationships.

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