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29th May 2022

Solana denies knowledge of CIA jails in Europe

EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana has denied any knowledge of the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transport and illegal detention of prisoners in the "war on terror."

"I have no information whatsoever that tells me with certainty that any of the accusations, allegations, rumours…are true", Mr Solana said, when quizzed by members of a European Parliament temporary committee on Tuesday (2 May).

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The Washington Post reported last year that the CIA had run secret rendition flights and secret prisons in eastern Europe.

A European Parliament committee investigating the matter suggested last month 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.

But MEPs did not get anywhere with Mr Solana, leading to some criticism of Mr Solana for "washing his hands of responsibility."

"I don't have the competence…to ask the countries how they have handled these questions and they don't have the obligation to answer me," he said.

"I can only do what the treaty allows me to do. You may want to change the treaty now, but then in another case, another day, you will criticise me for overstepping my mandate."

The stance drew criticism from some of the most active members of the committee, with UK liberal Sarah Ludford remarking:

"You say you do not have the legal competence, but surely you have the political competence as the EU high representative. This paints a pathetic picture of the EU."

Mr Solana did confirm that secret detention centres would be illegal in theory however.

"If these exist or have existed in Europe or elsewhere, they would violate international human rights and humanitarian law," he stated.

"Our stance against torture and other cruel treatment is clear. It is always wrong and illegal. There are no ifs or buts," Mr Solana went on.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer also rejected knowledge of CIA operations in Europe.

He told the parliament's foreign affairs committee that he has no information on alleged CIA flights or alleged extraordinary renditions and that he does not intend to appear before the temporary committee on CIA flights.

MEPs disagree on need to quiz Barroso on CIA row

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.

Orbán's new state of emergency under fire

Hungary's premier Viktor Orbán declared a state of emergency due to the war in neighbouring Ukraine hours after pushing a constitutional amendment through parliament, where two-thirds of MPs are controlled by his Fidesz party, allowing his government special powers.

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