Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1291, (14 - 20 April 2016)
Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Issue 1291, (14 - 20 April 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Time to talk to Europe

An Egyptian parliamentary delegation is on an official visit to Strasbourg and Brussels this week to discuss the European Parliament’s recent resolution on human rights in Egypt, reports Mohamed Abdel-Baky

Al-Ahram Weekly

A delegation from Egypt’s House of Representatives started a formal visit to Strasbourg and Brussels on Monday to discuss the EU Parliament’s concerns about human rights in Egypt and developments regarding the murder of Italian student Giulio Regeni in Egypt.

Members of the delegation told Al-Ahram Weekly that the purpose of the visit was to build bridges with EU Parliament members in order to give them a better understanding of the situation in Egypt and the challenges the country is facing at this critical time.

“It is not enough to respond to EU concerns with statements, so it is necessary to go to Brussels and talk to EU Parliament members and other officials in person,” said MP Alaa Waly. “At the same time, as legislators we need to understand how decisions are being made in Brussels about Egypt.”

The parliamentary delegation included MPs Ahmed Said, Heba Hagras, Mohamed Al-Swidi, Alaa Waly, Karim Nabil, Midhat Salem, Shereen Farag, Ahmed Khalil, Abdel-Aziz Khair Allah, Ahmed Ali Ibrahim and Ahmed Samir Ali.

The meetings aim to avoid escalatory measures being taken against Egypt by the European Parliament. In March, the EU issued a resolution prompted by the murder of Regeni, claiming that his death was “not an isolated incident” but part of a “pattern of torture, death in custody and enforced disappearances” in Egypt.

The resolution passed with 588 European MPs voting in its support and 10 against. It also expressed concerns over the “arbitrary detention of government critics” in Egypt, calling for the “immediate and unconditional release of all persons detained and sentenced solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly” in the country.

The EU said it “deplores the continued security cooperation and arms deals by EU member states, notably France, Germany and the United Kingdom, with Egypt.”

This was not the first resolution from Brussels on human rights in Egypt. In January 2015, the EU issued a similar resolution condemning what it called “the Egyptian government’s abuse of power”. It also referred to “severe restrictions on NGOs and political associations operating in Egypt”.

The resolution urged the European Council and the European Commission to conduct EU policies towards Egypt in the spirit of “more for more” and “less for less,” making assistance to the Egyptian government, including financial assistance, conditional on achieving specific benchmarks for improving human rights.

Ahmed Said, the head of this week’s Egyptian parliamentary delegation, said that after reading the EU Parliament’s resolutions he noted that it was “isolated from other EU institutions” as the parliament is controlled by MPs who do not necessarily have the right information to reach a proper judgement on the situation in Egypt.

The EU Commission statements seemed to understand the challenges the Egyptian government was facing in creating a balance between restoring security and protecting human rights better, he said.

“The EU Parliament has ignored in all its statements about Egypt the fact that the country is in a war against terrorism, which requires measures to ensure the safety of its citizens,” he told the newspaper Al-Youm Al-Sabei.

“The main goal of this week’s visit is to respond to the claims included in the EU resolution issued in March. We want to make sure that the EU does not take any further resolutions based on undocumented or unjust media reports,” said MP Ehab Al-Kholy.

He added that a report that the delegation presented to the EU Parliament had been prepared after meetings members of the delegation held with senior officials at the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Council on Human Rights.

“Our message is that the EU Parliament members took their decision based on inaccurate information provided by the media and NGO reports that exaggerated the human rights situation in Egypt. We tried to give them a complete picture of what is happening in the country,” Al-Kholy said.

He explained that this is the first Egyptian parliamentary visit to Brussels since 2013, and that it is important to have ties with MPs from different parties within the EU Parliament and establish direct lines of communication with them.

One diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity said the visit is important to show EU circles that Egypt has a functioning parliament that is working with the government to improve the human rights situation in the country.

“It is necessary to build ties between our parliament and counterparts in the EU in order for this to have a positive impact in the future,” the diplomat said. “Our relationship with EU countries has remained strong, especially with France and Germany, despite the EU Parliament resolution.”

Recent weeks have seen improvements in Egypt’s relations with several EU countries. On Sunday, French President François Hollande will arrive in Cairo on an official visit. The following week, a German delegation including representatives from 130 German companies will visit Egypt to discuss investment opportunities.

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