22nd May 2022

EU welcomes Obama's Guantanamo move

US President Barack Obama has requested the suspension of all military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay - a first step to closing the detainee camp - within hours of being sworn is as the country's leader, with European countries expected to take inmates who will not stand trial through normal processes in the US.

At the request of the US president, the Department of Defence asked late Tuesday evening (20 January) to a suspend for 120 days all trials pending in the Guantanamo military courts.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Guantanamo inmates could be released soon, if the Europeans step in (Photo: Wikipedia)

Barack Obama had promised during his campaign to close down the camp for alleged terrorism suspects, which was set up seven years ago by the previous Bush administration at a US military base in Cuba.

Of the 245 inmates still held there, only 21 men were facing criminal charges (including the five alleged plotters of the 11 September 2001 attacks).

The military tribunals lack sufficient legal protection for defendants, Eric Holder, the president's nominee for attorney general, has said.

President Obama's team is to evaluate the legal possibilities to transfer the cases from the suspended military tribunals to regular US courts.

EU countries have been calling on the US for a long time to close down Guantanamo, but most seem reluctant to take inmates who risk torture or other serious violations of their human rights if they return to their home countries.

"We didn't catch these people. We didn't put them into prison," Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg, representing the rotating EU presidency, told the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee on Tuesday (20 January).

"First we should ask the USA how many [detainees] they will keep," he said, adding that only afterward could there be discussions regarding the number of inmates the EU could take in.

The previous day, the president of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering, had called on EU countries to help Mr Obama close down Guantanamo by taking inmates, echoing similar requests from Europe's human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe.

Also speaking before Mr Obama's inauguration, EU commissioner for justice, Jacques Barrot, said on Euronews that closing down Guantanamo was "a chance for a new partnership between Europe and the US."

EU foreign ministers are to discuss the issue officially for the first time at a meeting in Brussels on 26 January.

Portugal and Great Britain are among the few European countries offering asylum to the Guantanamo detainees, while France has also pledged to do the same, but on a case-by-case basis.

Germany is divided, with Social Democrat foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in favour of the idea, but conservative interior minister Wolfgang Schaeuble opposed.

The Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Sweden are reluctant to step in, according to news agencies.

Pressure mounts for EU to take Guantanamo prisoners

European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pottering has become the latest high-ranking politician to call on EU states to take in prisoners from the US military base in Guantanamo, Cuba, once it is closed. EU states remain divided on the issue, however.

EU states warn of looming food-price crisis

Prices of cereals, fertilisers, and oilseed have shot up drastically in several European markets due to Russia's war on Ukraine, prompting some member states to seek EU aid.

EU plans to jointly invest in defence capabilities

EU countries need to refill stockpiles after several member states supplied weapons to Ukraine in its fight with Russia, and to phase out existing Soviet-era weapons systems, and reinforce air defence.

UK and EU edge closer to trade war over Northern Ireland

The EU warning comes after the UK government escalated the conflict over the Northern Ireland protocol — a set of post-Brexit trade rules — by saying it will unilaterally pass a law to change the EU-UK trade treaty.


Ultraconservatives in Putin's shadow

Vladimir Putin's Ukraine war has threatened to be a public relations disaster for hard-right gatherings like the Conservative Political Action Conference — now meeting in Budapest and featuring Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, who remains highly-cordial with the Kremlin.


Will 'Putin's Nato' follow Warsaw Pact into obscurity?

Valdimir Putin's equivalent to Nato — the Collective Security Treaty Organization of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Armenia, Tajikistan, and Belarus — is convening in Moscow next week to give cover that Russia is not alone in its war against Ukraine.

News in Brief

  1. UK to send 'hundreds' of migrants to Rwanda each year
  2. Norwegian knife attacks were domestic dispute
  3. Sweden hits back at Turkey's 'disinformation' in Nato bid
  4. Germany's Schröder gives up one of two Russia jobs
  5. G7 countries pledge €18bn in financial aid for Ukraine
  6. Italian unions strike in protest over military aid for Ukraine
  7. Russia cuts gas supply to Finland
  8. Half of Gazprom's clients have opened rouble accounts

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. What Europe still needs to do to save its bees
  2. Remembering Falcone: How Italy almost became a narco-state
  3. Economic worries and Hungary on the spot Next WEEK
  4. MEPs urge sanctioning the likes of ex-chancellor Schröder
  5. MEPs call for a more forceful EU response to Kremlin gas cut
  6. Catalan leader slams Pegasus use: 'Perhaps I'm still spied on'
  7. More EU teams needed to prosecute Ukraine war crimes
  8. French EU presidency struggling on asylum reforms

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us