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Next Stop Europe?

DW staff (tt)January 24, 2009

France has drafted a plan for EU nations to take in 60 of 245 detainees remaining at the United States' Guantanamo Bay prison camp on Cuba, German news weekly Der Spiegel reported on Saturday, Jan. 24.

U.S. Army Military Police escort a detainee to his cell in Camp X-Ray at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
The destiny of the remaining Guantanamo detainees is still unclearImage: AP

Germany welcomed on Friday plans by US President Barack Obama to close the camp, but has not yet offered to accept detainees.

Spiegel said France had sent the plan to EU capitals and would discuss it when EU foreign ministers meet on Monday in Brussels.

EU nations are divided about whether to admit the detainees, described by US authorities as not dangerous. Portugal and France appear willing while Sweden and the Netherlands have said no.

Germany still undecided

Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Barack Obama
Steinmeier, left, would like to help out US President Barack ObamaImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

Germany's government is itself split over the issue. While Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a Social Democrat, is in favor of hosting inmates, Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, a conservative, is against such a move.

Talks on the subject are scheduled between the two ministers, who are eager to score political points ahead of a general election looming in Germany later in the year.

Former German-Turkish Guantanamo detainee Murat Kurnaz, who was able to return to Germany after more than four years of captivity, called Friday on the government to show "active regret" for failing to act quicker in his case.

Case by case

Montage of leg shackles and a superimposed "Forbidden" sign
EU governments have been in favor of closing the Guantanamo camp for yearsImage: picture-alliance/ dpa / DW

Spiegel said the French plan was for each nation to decide on a case-by-case basis who to take in, with EU funds available to give traumatized former detainees psychological counseling.

Non-EU states such as Norway and Switzerland would also be contacted about taking in inmates.

European governments have been calling for the US camp, known for its aggressive interrogation methods, to be closed for years. It has held more than 750 captives from around the world since opening in 2002, most of them without trial.

Both the French and the German foreign ministers have so far declined to comment on the Spiegel report.

Personal opinion

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Friday told reporters it was up to EU members to help the US solve the problem of the Guantanamo facility.

"I think the EU member states -- of course it is their decision -- could make an effort to help the United States," Barroso said.

But he also said that this was his personal opinion and that there had been no debate in Brussels on the topic.

Barroso also welcomed President Barack Obama's decision to close the prison within 12 months.