Monday,25 March, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1417, (8 - 14 November 2018)
Monday,25 March, 2019
Issue 1417, (8 - 14 November 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Room for improvement

The European Parliament calls for strengthening ties between Egypt and the European Union, reports Ahmed Morsy

The EP delegation during a press conference last week in Cairo
The EP delegation during a press conference last week in Cairo

A European Parliament (EP) delegation arrived in Egypt last week. The two-day visit came as part of the ongoing dialogue between the EP and the House of Represntatives, and follows Egyptian Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal’s visit to Brussels last June.

The European delegation was led by Marisa Matias, chair of the EP’s committee for relations with Mashreq countries, and included Gilles Parg, a member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, Francesc Gambus, member of the European People’s Party and Javier Nart, a member of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

During their visit the delegation met with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri, chair of parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Karim Darwish, MPs and officials.

During his meeting with the delegation Shoukri stressed Egypt’s keenness on enhancing ties with the European Union, said Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid. Shoukri also briefed the visitors on economic and political conditions in Egypt.

The EP delegation urged the Egyptian authorities to “deepen the implementation of its courageous social and economic reforms” within a democratic framework and called for deepening the partnership between the European Union and Egypt to help “overcome common challenges and build a better future for our citizens, the vast majority of whom aspire to live in a free, safe, tolerant and pluralistic society”. 

“Such a partnership should also foster a political dialogue based on shared values, respect of the rule of law and international agreements,” said the statement issued by the delegation.

The EP delegation stated that sustainable development and security can only be achieved when human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and the right to peaceful dissent, are fully respected, though Matias stressed in a press conference the delegation was not in Egypt to “interfere nor to give lessons”.

Matias told Al-Ahram Weekly that partnership agreements signed between Egypt and the EU include several articles stating ties must be based on democratic principles and respect of human rights. 

Since 2004 an Association Agreement, which establishes a free trade area between the two partners, has been in place. Egypt is also a party to the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, an initiative of the European Neighbourhood Policy.

“We treat each other as equals, which is the way we work. And, as happens between friends, we speak frankly. But we are not here to say what Egypt should do. Rather we are here to see what we can do together, and how we should organise joint activities and partnerships,” said Matias.

She stressed that the EP recognises the efforts made by Egypt in fighting terrorism and that some reforms have been implemented. However, she said “when we make our assessment, we always take all dimensions on board, including areas where there is room for improvement”.

Delegation member Javier Nart acknowledged that while there was Islamophobia in the Western world “at the same time there is a deep sense that this is a horrible thing, just like the anti-semitism in the past”.

Nart said that it was too simplistic to reduce the attitude in Europe to Islamophobia, since it was limited, by and large, to extreme right-wing parties.

“The mainstream in Europe realises that there is a difference between Islam and terrorism and that terrorism has claimed hundreds of Muslim victims,” Nart told the Weekly. Nart said that Islam should not be associated with terrorism.

Nart also added that illegal migrants cannot be considered as terrorists. He said that although tens of thousands of Moroccans migrate to Spain, yet neither the Spanish nor the European authorities label them as terrorists.

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