The EU is still observing cautiously developments in Egypt after the fall of Mohamed Morsi in the wake of massive protests 30 June. And while Štefan Füle, EU commissioner for enlargement and neighbourhood policies, sees that there are promising signs that the political roadmap announced 3 July is proceeding towards achieving its goals, he also believes that any emerging democracy should include all political forces, without excluding anyone.
AO: How does the EU view the changes happening in Egypt, especially after 30 June?
The EU is following developments in Egypt very closely. Let me underline that the EU has and will continue to support the Egyptian people in their ongoing search for democracy, respect for human rights, dignity, justice and security. EU representatives (Vice-president and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton and EU Special Representative for the Southern Mediterranean Region Bernardino León) have been actively involved in trying to overcome the political polarisation in the country ahead of the events of 30 June and also afterwards. A prosperous future of Egypt can only be based on a fully democratic and inclusive solution and the EU stands ready to continue engagement with all parties.
AO: On 14 November 2012, the EU-Egypt Task Force approved a financial aid package, but until now very little has been delivered. What are the reasons for this delay ?
The EU has secured €40 million from the financial package announced by the EU-Egypt Task Force to contribute to ongoing works for Line N°3 of the Cairo Metro, whose total cost amounts to nearly €1,600 million. A programme worth €90 million is currently under finalisation and will hopefully be signed by both parties (the EU and Egypt) by the end of this year. But let's recall that the majority of the money from the financial package was: a) linked to continuing reforms and transformation; and b) promised by financial institutions and linked to the existence of good projects. On these two counts, events since last year have been disappointing.
AO: Is there a possibility to go ahead with this package after the referendum on the new constitution in Egypt, or will it wait for the upcoming elections, or for an agreement with the IMF? And what if Egypt is not interested an IMF agreement now?
The EU Member States have discussed the issue of assistance to Egypt in August and expressed their concerns about the economic situation in the country and the negative impact on the most vulnerable groups in Egyptian society. While stressing the need to monitor the situation in Egypt closely and readjust its cooperation accordingly, the EU reiterated its commitment to continue with assistance in the socio-economic sector and to civil society.
A lot of EU and international financial assistance was linked to a possible IMF programme that should have restored confidence in the economy, corrected macroeconomic imbalances and paved the way for necessary economic and financial reforms. Should the Egyptian authorities decide to reach an agreement with the IMF, the EU would be ready to support it, through new macro-financial assistance.
AO: How do you view the level of violence in Egypt? And how does it affect EU assistance, investment and tourism in Egypt?
We strongly condemn all acts of violence. We also condemn acts of terrorism, such as the murder of policemen in Sinai. We have seen attacks on government installations, worrying destruction of churches and mosques. We call on all sides to stop the cycle of violence, the provocations and the hate speech. Egypt is a key partner of the European Union. We are ready to assist the people of Egypt as they go forward, we hope, in stability, inclusivity, democracy and prosperity. And we are ready to support a revived political dialogue, which must of course be fully inclusive.
AO: How do you assess the Egyptian political roadmap? Will the changes in Egypt affect aid through the Neighborhood Policy mechanism?
The EU takes positive note of the commitment of the Egyptian authorities to implement the roadmap, and with that, agreeing on a constitution. However, we have to underline that the process has to be inclusive. We support the Egyptians and they should not be punished further. We will therefore look into current aid programmes and see how they can best benefit the population in their efforts for socio-economic development and civil and political rights.
AO: There was a promise of the 3Ms (money, market access and mobility). Does this promise still exist? What are the measures that the EU has taken, or is going to take, to deliver on this promise? And what are the obstacles?
The three Ms remain at the centre of the EU offer to all of our partners. The basis for EU engagement in Egypt is the renewed EU Neighbourhood Policy adopted in 2011. In line with it, greater EU engagement (through greater trade, better mobility and increased financial support) is linked to progress demonstrated in political reforms and respect for human rights and fundamental values. This differentiated approach is known as the "more-for-more principle," and will continue to serve as the basis for EU-Egypt cooperation.
AO: What lies ahead in EU deliberations on aid to Egypt?
This differentiated approach remains an underlying principle of the renewed European Neighbourhood Policy. Discussions have started between the EU and the government of Egypt concerning the programming of EU funds for the period 2014-2015, and more specifically on how to better target the most vulnerable populations, especially in the most effective way and with the biggest impact on their daily lives.