The European Union (EU) is threatening the United States (US) with reprisals if President Donald Trump decides to sanction EU investments in Cuba, a copy of a letter showed on Wednesday.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom sent the warning in a letter dated April 10 to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to the letter obtained by AFP.
US National Security Advisor John Bolton is expected Wednesday to formally unveil a shift in policy opening the way for lawsuits in US courts over property confiscated by Cuba.
Bolton “will announce the enforcement of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act,” a US official said.
By ending once-routine US presidential waivers of provisions in the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, Cuban exiles will be allowed to sue both private firms and the Havana government for profiting from properties nationalised after Fidel Castro’s 1959 communist revolution.
While US courts cannot directly enforce decisions inside Cuba, the Helms-Burton Act is meant to send a chilling message to foreign investors, including Americans, who may increasingly decide to exit or steer clear of the island.
In their letter, Mogherini and Malmstrom urged Pompeo to stick to what they said was an agreement on managing policy differences over Cuba under which the US waived Title III and the EU suspended a threatened case at the World Trade Organization against Washington.
They said they were calling on Washington “to maintain a full waiver of Title III for EU companies and citizens,” the letter said.
“Failing this, the EU will be obliged to use all means at its disposal, including in cooperation with other international partners, to protect its interests,” they said.
“The EU is considering a possible launch of the WTO case,” the letter added.
Mogherini and Malmstrom warned that “any claims in US courts would likely be followed by counter-claims by EU companies in EU courts,” according to their letter.
“As a concrete example, if a US hotel chain with a certified claim sued an EU hotel chain in a US court under Title III for alleged trafficking in US property, the EU hotel chain would be able to counterclaim for damages from the EU-based assets of the same US hotel chain in an EU court,” the letter said.
“If any of those claimants were to launch cases against EU persons, they would expose themselves to liability for damages in EU courts,” it added.
“Such damages could be recovered through the seizure and sale of assets which US claimants, persons acting on their behalf or their intermediaries hold in the EU, including shares they hold in EU companies.”