U.S., E.U. Sign Accord on Crime but Guantanamo and Travel Rights Left Aside
WASHINGTON (CN) - U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the Swedish Justice Minister agreed Wednesday to guidelines between the United States and European Union in fighting international crime. The plan includes first-time rules that would allow European countries to refuse to extradite criminals that might be subject to the death penalty, but left dangling the issues of Guantanamo Bay prisoners and travel rights.
After clinking glasses with the Swedish Minister for Justice Beatrice Ask, who represented the European Union in the signing, Holder took a suspiciously small sip of champagne. "It's a little early," he said at the noon ceremony, which was held at the Swedish embassy.
Sweden currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, but will soon hand the reigns to Spain, which will fill the role during the first half of 2010.
Both politicians said the accord will provide the tools to better combat terrorism, cyber crime, international fraud, human and drug trafficking, and other serious international crimes.
While the two applauded the agreement, they acknowledged that many important details must still be hammered out. "The declaration is what we agreed on," Ask said. "It's not possible for us to sort out all the judicial details."
One of the new provisions would allow international witnesses to testify by video. For example, a French citizen who witnesses a crime in the United States would be allowed to testify from France, and would not be required to traverse the Atlantic.
The deal also would make it easier for the signatories to share bank account information of suspected criminals.
It is the first agreement on extradition between the United States and the European Union, Ask said.
Members of the press asked about whether the agreement would make the transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay Prison to European countries easier.
Holder replied that he hopes more member states take the prisoners. He added, "I think it's going to be difficult for us to meet the Jan. 22 deadline."
The White House has set January as the deadline for the closing of the Guantanamo prison.
The United States and European Union began the negotiations after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The new provisions will begin in February.