Cuba - United States – Application of Title II of the Helms-Burton Act – Reply by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs to a written question in the Senate (19 Dec. 2019)


After talking several times about the possibility of stopping the suspension of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act adopted in 1996, the United States has decided to apply, from 2 May 2019, this mechanism, which gives United States nationals and businesses whose Cuban property was nationalized from 1959 the right to apply in American courts for compensation from anyone “trafficking” such property, this notion having a very broad definition.

The American authorities have also decided to take additional steps against Cuba, including measures aimed at limiting air links between the United States and Cuba and the toughening of rules applicable to exports to Cuba of capital goods containing American components.

France condemns the activation of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act: the decision is unacceptable because the provisions of that law have extraterritorial effect and therefore violate international law. The American authorities’ decision, which is an attack on our economic sovereignty, aims to deter businesses – including European businesses – from committing to investment projects in Cuba.

Council Regulation (EC) No. 2271/96, which protects against the effects of the extra-territorial application of legislation adopted by a third country, applies and is today the European Union’s main response in order to protect our interests. Among other things, this regulation establishes the non-recognition on European soil of any administrative, judicial or arbitral decision taken by an authority of a third country pursuant to Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, and allows wronged natural and legal persons in Europe to institute legal proceedings in French and European courts against the complainants in the United States, and their lawyers or representatives, to demand compensation.

France is continuing discussions with the other European Union member states and the European Commission to look at ways of stepping up the protection of our interests and of our businesses in Cuba. The Cuba case illustrates the need to continue strengthening our instruments of economic sovereignty, especially European ones. Going beyond the political balance of powers, supporting the euro’s increasingly powerful international role is another long-term way of responding to the challenge of extraterritoriality, and we shall be promoting it over the course of the coming term of office.

(Translation courtesy of the French Embassy in London)