MEPs urge EU states to take Guantanamo prisoners
04.02.09 @ 17:43
BRUSSELS - The European Parliament on Wednesday (4 February) urged EU states to take in prisoners from Guantanamo Bay if the US asks them to, after the European Commission said compliant countries could get financial aid.
MEPs voted by 542 in support of the resolution, with just 55 against despite security concerns linked to the move.
Of the 242 prisoners left in the US-run prison camp in Cuba, 62 will need to be resettled, the majority of whom are Chinese-Muslims, Algerians, Tunisians, Syrians, Libyans and Uzbeks.
"You could have possible financial aid to ease the reception in certain member states," EU justice commissioner Jacques Barrot told MEPs during a debate in Strasbourg on Tuesday, without specifying where the money would come from.
The commissioner placed the burden of security on the US, which is to be responsible for checking that any EU-bound detainees do not pose a terrorism threat.
The Czech EU presidency's minister for EU affairs Alexander Vondra has promised that EU justice and home affairs ministers will debate the Guantanamo resettlement at the end of February.
Mr Barrot and Czech minister of interior Ivan Langer will also head a mission to Washington on 16 March to meet US justice officials on details of the closure.
Several EU countries led by Portugal have so far said they might take prisoners, but none has given a firm commitment. EU foreign ministers last month failed to agree an EU line, leaving the decision to national capitals.
Conservative and rightist MEPs on Tuesday voiced the strongest security worries.
"Many past and present detainees were trained in terror camps in Afghanistan after 9/11. They obviously didn't go there as tourists to admire the scenery. These people are potential terrorists," German conservative deputy Hartmut Nassauer said.
But socialist and liberal leaders underlined the EU's moral imperative in supporting US President Barack Obama's move.
Not helping shut down Guantanamo "would be even worse than setting up the camp in the first place," socialist chief Martin Schulz said.
"Europe cannot stand back and shrug its shoulders and say these things are for America alone to sort out," liberal group leader Graham Watson said.