EU divided over hosting Guantanamo inmates

7th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

US President Barack Obama has said he would close the notorious "war on terror" prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba by January 2010 and is seeking host states for up to 60 of the 245 inmates.

Luxembourg -- European Union nations were divided Monday over whether to accept inmates from Guantanamo prison camp as requested by the United States, after France agreed at the weekend to take one in.

"As a national state, we don't accept anybody," Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, told reporters in Luxembourg at a meeting of the bloc's justice and interior ministers.

The reason, he said, is the "high risk of no successful integration of such persons".

"On the other hand, we are the presidency and we look for a coordinated approach," he added.

Austria and Germany are also among a number of EU states reluctant to have any former inmates in Europe and able move around freely without passport checks inside the 25-nation Schengen no-borders zone.

US President Barack Obama has said he would close the notorious "war on terror" prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba by January 2010 and is seeking host states for up to 60 of the 245 inmates.

The EU regularly demanded the closure of the jail, where prisoners have been held often without charge or trial, and have welcomed Obama's decision to finally shut it.

But national laws differ widely among the 27 EU countries and they are struggling to define a common position on how best to help.

On Friday, France agreed to accept an inmate, probably an Algerian national, but President Nicolas Sarkozy said it would only be to "put him in prison here".

EU Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot, taking part in Monday's meeting in Luxembourg, said that the United States wants to wrap up its "dialogue" with EU nations on hosting the inmates by June.

Barrot, recently returned from a fact-finding mission to Washington with Langer, said that while Washington had formally asked for help, no numbers of detainees it needed assistance with were given.

He said EU interior ministers would lay out at a future meeting whether or not they want to take any inmates and what conditions some would like imposed.

"Coordination is a must," he said.

AFP/Expatica

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