European Commission to fine companies which co-operate with USA anti-Cuba stance

European companies which co-operate with Washington's tough new anti-Cuba legislation face fines under retaliatory measures tabled yesterday by the European Commission. Brussels hopes publication of the measures will be enough to persuade the Americans to back away from implementing provisions which allow US citizens to sue foreign companies for "trafficking" in property confiscated after the 1959 revolution in Cuba. It is also intended as a warning shot to Washington not to press ahead with similar legislation for Iran and Libya.

President Bill Clinton suspended the right to sue under the Helms-Burton law earlier this month, but Sir Leon Brittan, the EU Commissioner for external relations, said a "sword of Damocles" hung over European companies and individuals. The measures, which include the right to counter-sue anywhere in the EU, follow agreement by European foreign ministers earlier this month on the need for swift retaliation.