Sunday

28th Aug 2016

EU countries reject Snowden asylum

  • US secretary of state John Kerry and Sikorski in Washington in June (Photo: state.gov)

Six EU countries have said No to asylum for US leaker Edward Snowden, citing technicalities.

Austria, Finland, Ireland, Poland, the Netherlands and Spain all said on Tuesday (2 July) that the fugitive, who is currently in Moscow, could only apply for refuge if he was on their territory.

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Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski noted on Twitter that: "An application came in which does not meet the formal requirements for granting asylum. But even if it did I wouldn't give a positive recommendation."

He said in a second tweet: "Because Poland and the US are allies."

He then added: "But we will be seeking clarifications about NSA [the US' National Security Agency] activities on Poland and the EU."

For his part, German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle said the German embassy in Moscow received an asylum request by fax on Sunday.

He told media it "will be handed over without delay to the competent German authorities" and treated "according to the law."

Germany also requires applicants to file on its territory. People can get special treatment on "humanitarian" grounds or if they constitute a "political interest" for Germany.

Some left-wing German politicians, including the Socialist head of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, have voiced sympathy for Snowden's request.

But the humanitarian exemption, in any case, is unlikely to apply because Germany recognises the US as a democratic and law abiding country.

Snowden says he also applied to France and Italy.

But French President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday that French authorities had not received his request.

Speaking at an event in Paris alongside Lithuanian head of state Dalia Grybauskaite, he added: "Europe should have a co-ordinated, common position on the requirements which we have formulated and the explanations we have asked for."

An official in the Italian foreign ministry told AFP it is considering Snowden's request.

But he noted that it "contains anomalies" because it was also faxed to the Italian embassy in Moscow, while Italian law says you have to go to an embassy in person or be in Italy.

With Snowden claiming he risks the death penalty if he returns to the US, Bolivia and Venezuela are the only countries so far to drop hints of a positive decision.

Brazil, Ecuador, India and Norway also said No on Tuesday.

Snowden himself ruled out Russia after Moscow said it would only do it if he promised not to publish any more US secrets.

China, Cuba, Iceland and Nicaragua have said nothing so far.

Meanwhile back in Paris, Grybauskaite voiced hope the Snowden affair will blow over without disrupting plans for an EU-US free trade treaty.

"[The trade talks] might take even two or more years. So all these issues should not have a direct impact," she said.

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