EU May Suspend Nations With Secret Prisons

The European Union’s Justice Commissioner warned today that EU countries who operated secret CIA prisons could be stripped of their voting rights.

EU May Suspend Nations With Secret Prisons (AP)

EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini warned Monday any EU nation found to have operated secret CIA prisons could have their EU voting rights suspended. “I would be obliged to propose to the Council (of EU Ministers) serious consequences, including the suspension of voting rights in the Council,” Frattini said at a counter-terrorism conference.

Such a move would, instantaneously, destroy the EU–especially if one of the more powerful states were so sanctioned. The idea that a sovereign state’s national security decisions would be punished by a pseudo-government is as dangerous as it is laughable.

Update (11/29 0655): Henry Farrell reveals that Poland and Romania are the offenders. A snippet from his lengthy analysis:

This could prove to be an important catalyst. While the relationship between the EU and US is less overtly confrontational than it was a year ago, the US actually has less European friends than it did back then. There̢۪s a general feeling of disgust among European political elites (including those who are usually pro-US) for America̢۪s involvement in torture, extraordinary renditions and human rights abuses. Important allies of the US such as Blair and Berlusconi have been weakened, and likely aren̢۪t around for too much longer. Not only that, but there are internal European politics too. There̢۪s suspicion and dislike of the new Polish government in other EU capitals; while it certainly didn̢۪t set up the putative prisons, it does have a distinct whiff of populist authoritarianism, and black prisons may prove to be a convenient excuse for taking action to clip its wings. Nor is there much appetite for Romania̢۪s imminent membership of the EU either. Finally, action would be a very attractive way for EU officials to improve the European Union̢۪s image with voters in France, Holland and elsewhere, by showing that the EU is about more than free trade and agriculture subsidies.

An excellent discussion in the comments as well about the political implications.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Anderson says:

    JJ, this post has a knee-jerk quality to it.

    The EU is a club. It has rules:

    Frattini said suspending EU voting rights would be justified under the EU treaty, which stipulates that the bloc is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, and that a persistent breach of these principles can be punished.

    Clandestine detention centers would violate the European Convention on Human Rights.

    Whether you’re a “sovereign nation” is irrelevant. By entering into the EU, a nation trades some of its sovereignty for other advantages. You don’t follow the rules, you get kicked out. What’s the big deal?

    Would the EU be any less “destroyed” by one of its principal nation’s declaring, hey, we can flout the rules because you don’t dare kick us out?

    Condoning or practicing torture is not, by the definitions adopted by the EU, a “national security decision.” It’s an act of barbarism, on a continent with a very recent history of barbarism.

  2. cirby says:

    …and if you follow the European Convention on Human Rights guidelines faithfully, then they’d have already lost France, for the secret prison in Marseilles. They commonly abuse prisoners much, much more than the US has even been accused of doing.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Anderson: The part that I quoted was, at the time of posting, the entirety of the AP piece.

    I agree that the EU is a club and that clubs can set their own rules. This particular type of club, an IGO, though, has the constraints of practicality. If, say, the UK exercises its sovereignty in a way that may technically violate the rules of the club, imposing harsh sanctions may well destroy the club. A state whose voting rights are suspended will–indeed, should–resign from the EU immediately.

    The UN, WTO, World Court, and so forth face similar constraints.

  4. Anderson says:

    Catch-22 on the harsh sanctions; I reiterate that once the big boys can flout the rules, there ain’t no more rules. This world government thing still has some bugs in it.

    Cirby, you are quite right that if they’re going to apply the rules, they need to do so uniformly.

    May I suggest that JJ’s reaction is better justified by our suspicion that the EU is doing some grandstanding, and that (as Cirby suggests) they’re happening to apply the rules in a case where they get to frown upon the U.S.A.?

  5. Joseph says:

    This threat of voting-rights suspension within the EU is laughable. The only way to suspend an EU members voting rights is by unanimous consent of the EU Council. And the member being potentially suspended, will obviously vote against it.

    Secondly, even if the member being affected couldn’t vote on its future status, the likelihood all all 24 remaining EU members agreeing to suspend the member is virtually nil.

  6. kb says:

    “The only way to suspend an EU members voting rights is by unanimous consent of the EU Council. And the member being potentially suspended, will obviously vote against it.”

    Nope,the member to be suspended doesn’t get a vote.

  7. RA says:

    That general statement could be construed to helping the US in Iraq.

    I hope this eurotrash does kick a few countries out. The US should step in and sign independant treaties with these nations and give them a leg up on trade verses the EU.

    As far as Anderson declaring that torture is “barbourous”, his sort of ilk has no problem with sticking a scissors in the back of the head of a child being born and sucking out the babies brains.

    Both liberals and conservatives are in favor of using torture (it does work). Liberals like torturing the weak and the innocent for convenience. Conservatives want to torture the scum of the earth to save some of our people.

    Its liberals like Anderson who are the barbarians.

  8. If the EU is just a pseudo-government, how is it a punishment to be kicked out?

    Just as a private country club has the right to exclude blacks or women if it wants, a pseudo-government like the EU should give itself the right to choose who it wants to associate with.

    Isn’t the conservative line against UN that it allows human rights violators on certain committees? I would think conservatives would laud the EU holding countries RESPONSIBLE for their actions.

  9. kb says:

    Given that the state in question is apparently one of the eastern european members(and the name poland is being thrown around), then allowing the CIA to operate a secret detention centre is unlikely to be a matter of ‘National Security’ and more a case that the US government is paying them money to allow this to happen on their soil.

    If the EU suspends the country , then their choice will be :
    a) Leave the EU and lose both the funding they get and the free access to european markets.
    b) Ask the CIA to leave and lose the US funding.

    Given the EU funding, for say poland, in the 2004 to 2006 budget runs to around $15 billion I can’t
    see that the US will be paying them more. Add in the level of trade with the EU & there’s no way that it will be worth their while to keep any ‘secret prisons’ open.

    If it’s one of the candidate countries then they’ll be told to close it or forget joining.

  10. Barry says:

    Looks like torture and secret prisons are the new ‘freedom’.