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Europe’s Interest in Closing Guantánamo

BRUSSELS – For years, the European Union has called loudly for the closure of the Guantánamo Bay detention center. Now that US President Barack Obama has taken the decision to do so, the EU stands ready to provide political and practical support to the United States to help achieve that goal.

We share President Obama’s assessment that “Guantánamo became a symbol that helped Al Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause. Indeed, the existence of Guantánamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.” We in the EU believe that it is our common interest with the US to prevent radicalization and recruitment to terrorism throughout the world.

The primary responsibility for closing Guantánamo and re-settling detainees lies with the US. But Europeans want to help the US turn the page. That is why EU member states have already received their own nationals and former residents from Guantánamo. That is why France recently received an Algerian ex-detainee. And that is why several other EU countries are now considering receiving ex-detainees cleared for release, but who, for compelling reasons, cannot return to their countries of origin. We in the EU expect the US to do likewise; if it is safe to release these people in Europe, it is safe to do so in the US.

More generally, we agree with Obama that “in the long run we...cannot keep...safe unless we enlist the power of our most fundamental values,” and that “we uphold our most cherished values not only because doing so is right, but because it strengthens [us] and keeps us safe.” The experience of European democracies confronted with a long-term terrorist threat shows that human rights and the rule of law are our strongest assets. That is why terrorists want to destroy them.