7th Jul 2022

MEPs disagree on need to quiz Barroso on CIA row

  • MEPs are divided over whether they should invite Mr Barosso for questioning in the European Parliament's temporary CIA committee (Photo: European Commission)

MEPs have called for the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, to appear before the European Parliament's temporary committee to face questions about CIA rendition flights on Portuguese territory during his time as the country's prime minister.

Member of the committee, Italian socialist MEP Giovanni Claudio Fava told Corriere Della Sera that Mr Barroso should appear, while his German colleague Wolfgang Kreissl-Dorfler said "we would very much like to question Mr Barroso", according to German daily Handelsblatt.

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However, fellow committee member liberal UK MEP Sarah Ludford told EUobserver that calling for Mr Barroso to answer questions of alleged Portuguese involvement in CIA rendition flights was "not the right way to go forward."

"I welcome anybody who can shed some light on the issue," she said. But she added "I don't know whether the president of the commission has anything to tell us."

She explained that EU governments as well as the EU's foreign affairs chief Javier Solana "hold the key" to information on the CIA rendition flights in Europe.

"I find it extremely hard to believe that Solana knows nothing," Ms Ludford said.

A delegation from the CIA committee is currently in Berlin speaking to German government officials and will visit London in two weeks time, followed by Budapest and Warsaw.

Former Portuguese prime minister

Mr Barroso served as prime minister of Portugal from 6 April 2002 until 29 June 2004, when he resigned to become president-designate of the European Commission.

A commission spokesman told journalists in Brussels on Monday (18 September) that Mr Barroso "has never authorised CIA rendition flights or any other measure that would be in contradiction with Portuguese law and at no point has information on such flights been brought to his attention" during his prime minister post.

Europe's top human rights watchdog – the Council of Europe – said in June after a seven-month investigation that CIA flights illegally transferring detainees made refuelling stops on Portuguese soil.

Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos was last week the first government official to be quizzed by MEPs on allegations that EU governments may have been complicit in human rights violations by the CIA, the US intelligence agency.

The Spanish minister said that "in no way can we conclude that illegal activities have taken place" in Spain, which has been regularly mentioned as a hub for so-called rendition flights by the CIA - carrying terror suspects to covert jails.

EU member states have persistently denied knowledge of secret CIA activities in their countries, although reports have not stopped coming out about CIA operations in Europe since NGO Human Rights Watch and the Washington Post newspaper broke the allegations in November last year.

A European Parliament committee investigating the matter suggested in May in an interim report that the CIA has conducted more than 1,000 undeclared flights over European territory since 2001, and that EU governments knew about it.

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