As US Ends Helms-Burton Waivers, EU Warns of Countermeasures
06 May 2019

The European Union warned the Trump administration on Thursday that its recent decision to permit US citizens to sue over seized Cuban assets could prompt the economic bloc to invoke countermeasures.

In a statement, the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini said that the decision by the White House last month was a “breach of the commitments” in place between the two jurisdictions since 1997 that will result in “unnecessary friction” and the erosion of transatlantic trust. As a result, the European Union could seek recourse through the World Trade Organization (WTO), according to Mogherini.

“The EU considers the extraterritorial application of unilateral restrictive measures to be contrary to international law and will draw on all appropriate measures to address the effect of the Helms-Burton Act, including in relation to its WTO rights and through the use of the EU Blocking Statute,” the statement said.

The Helms-Burton Act permits Cuban Americans and other US citizens to sue businesses that have benefited from the use of private property confiscated by the Cuban government since its 1959 revolution. In response to the law’s passage in 1996, the European Union filed a complaint with the WTO, prompting the Clinton administration to suspend the provision allowing lawsuits against foreign companies.

Former US Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama extended the Title III waiver in response to concerns that full implementation of the law would result in a flood of lawsuits that could damage America’s relations with its allies, including the European Union.

The Trump administration formally ended the waiver on Thursday, clearing the way for a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against Carnival Cruise Lines by two Cuban Americans seeking millions of dollars in compensation for the company’s use of buildings and docks in Cuba following the Obama-era relaxation of travel restrictions to the island-nation.

Both men have claims to the property that have been certified by the US Justice Department’s Foreign Claims Settlement Commission in the 1970s, the Miami Herald reported Thursday.

Photo: Андрей Бобровский [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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