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13th Apr 2024

EU ministers fail to adopt official text on CIA camps

EU foreign ministers have failed to agree on an official statement on the secret CIA jails and instead allowed the Finnish EU presidency to read out a "press line" with hardly any status.

Dutch foreign minister Bernard Bot, supported by his Belgian, Luxembourg and Spanish counterparts, had proposed a common EU declaration on alleged illegal activities by the CIA – the US intelligence agency - at a foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Friday (15 September).

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  • The EU text says covert prisons are "not in conformity with international law" (Photo: Wikipedia)

But ministers finally agreed only on a move which has the lowest diplomatic status possible at EU foreign ministers meetings - a "press line" not forming part of the official conclusions and not being an official declaration.

The press line was read out after the meeting by Finnish foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja and says that "the existence of secret detention facilities where detained persons are kept in a legal vacuum, is not in conformity with international humanitarian law and international criminal law."

The statement comes one week after US president George W. Bush admitted that the CIA had run covert prisons for terror suspects, but did not say where.

A Finnish presidency contact said the press line "has no official status," with one EU diplomat adding that two member states in particular – the UK and the Czech Republic – still disliked the wording.

Mr Bot told reporters "I had preferred to see a declaration but this was not acceptable to all 25 member states."

He added however that he believed "the message came across" in Washington that the EU "does not agree with the philosophy that the camps are still being used in the future."

The text was distributed at the meeting by the Dutch delegation, which is under heavy pressure at home from its national parliament which is angry with Washington's behaviour. It was not put on official EU paper.

EU ministers earlier had earlier used the technique of reverting to a "press line" in order to conceal their disagreement on the US fight against terror in March, when the then Austrian presidency prepared a statement on the Guantanamo camp.

The Guantanamo statement was not even read out by the presidency and was solely prepared for the event that journalists would raise the issue in the press briefing after the meeting.

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