The transfer of suspected terrorists on CIA planes in Europe has been the subject of debate across the Union since Swiss Senator Dick Marty reported to the Council of Europe that 14 European governments had colluded with the CIA. The UK, Ireland, Spain and Germany were among those singled out.
Franco Frattini, Vice-President of the European Commission and EU Commissioner responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security, speaks to Euronews about the presumed CIA flights and calls on member states to carry out national inquiries.
EURONEWS> Vice president Frattini, hello and welcome. Speaking at the Parliamentary Assembly you launched an appeal to member states to pursue inquiries on a national level into the “extraordinary rendition” flights, the transfer of suspected terrorists, but up to now member states have been reluctant. Why do you think their attitude will change?
FRATTINI> In certain countries magistrates have already begun inquiries, my appeal to these countries is that the inquires be completed as quickly as possible. In other member states, where magistrates have not intervened, there are now new elements that can be put at their disposal and submitted for their evaluation.
But the judges are free and independent. It’s their decision.
I also refer to administrative inquiries carried out by governments. I want to inform the Council of Ministers of the Interior, under the Finnish European Presidency, as quickly as possible….and I want to renew my encouragement to my Interior Minister collegues that they carry out profound administrative inquiries in co-operation with the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, which was first to carry out such measures.
EURONEWS> What are the risks to member states who do not co-operate sufficiently?
FRATTINI> We do not have any formal power to condemn in regards to non co-operation, but there is without doubt a political principal, if a member state does not collaborate when there are suspicious elements that merit an inquiry, that state will have to take responsibility for the effects on public opinion.
EURONEWS> If concrete proof was found that “extraordinary redition” flights occured, what would be the possible sanctions for the countries involved?
FRATTINI> If we had definitive juridical decisions that prove these facts, we would need to know how national authorities allowed, how they authorised, or encouraged such acts. The treaty is very clear, there are political consequences, there is a political sanction that can be taken by the European Council at the Commission’s proposal. These political sanctions, which would come from a recommendation and which would seriously effect public opinion across Europe, can be brought as far as a temporary suspension of voting rights in the European Council. This severe sanction has yet to be applied in the history of the treaty.
EURONEWS> In light of this inquiry how do you see relations between the European Union and the United States developing?
FRATTINI> The United States remains the number one partner in the fight against terrorism, we should re-launch a common objective in the combat against terrorism, one which respects freedom and fundamental rights. For example, one area where we could re-establish our collaboration would be in finding a common definition for the notion of terrorist activity. There has been work done by the United Nations but it has until now delivered no result. If Europe found one voice, as I think it is capable of doing in this area, and if it works with the United States on a United Nations Convention on the definition of terrorism, this would already be a very important political step.
EURONEWS> A lot of work has already been done on a European level with the United States in relation to extradition
FRATTINI> Yes, we signed an agreement on the subject of extradition in 2003. Today all member states have approved that bilateral agreement. But in order for it to be put into effect, it has to be ratified. Seven countries have ratified the agreement, and I will strongly insist that the other countires do so before December. In this way the first American-European agreement on extradition can be established and ease the judicial uncertainty regarding the extradition of terrorism suspects.
EURONEWS> Regarding the judicial uncertainty and the stand off between Europe and the United States on human rights, there is the question of Guantanamo. The subject was brought up during the last European summit but there was no clear conclusion.
FRATTINI> We think that Guantanamo is an anomaly for a country like the United States, which has a constitution that contains the strictest of condamnations for violations of human rights. Given that anomaly, we appreciated the words of George Bush when he said that he wanted to close Guantanamo. We are waiting for a concrete sign, which will come with the closing of that prison, where, objectively, the treatment of detainees does not conform to what are considered as the international standards.
EURONEWS> Thank you.