Egypt's military held considerable sway over political decisions in 2013: EU annual report

Ahram Online, Saturday 29 Mar 2014

EU report says 2013 was a 'very challenging year' politically in Egypt, with little to no progress made on good governance and development

The year 2013 was a "very challenging year" politically in Egypt, with the military holding "considerable sway over key political decisions," a newly published report by the European Union (EU) states.

The annual country progress report by the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), published Thursday, highlighted that Egypt's new constitution, passed in January, gives a high level of autonomy to the military as it will "grant a final say" over the position of minister of defence to Egypt's army.

It said no particular progress can be reported in Egypt, in relation to the country's Action Plan with ENP.

The Action Plan purses three priorities: political reform and good governance, competitiveness and productivity of the economy, and socio-economic progress in the development process.

Freedom of assembly and press freedom, as well as the relationship between the Egyptian authorities and civil society, have deteriorated, the ENP report reads.

ENP attributes the deterioration to the shutting down of TV channels, the harassment of journalists, trials and exaggerated sentences against rights activists, along with a restrictive law regulating protests.

The only positive progress in Egypt highlighted by the ENP report during 2013 was in the area of trade. The report said that a "limited progress" could be registered in the Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAAs).

The Egyptian government and the EU had a minor rift over EU criticism of Egypt's domestic policies.

In mid-March, Egypt's Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the envoys of European countries that sent a joint statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) condemning Egypt's recent crackdown on demonstrators and political dissent.

The statement, whose signatories included the UK, France, Germany, Japan, Turkey, the US and 21 other European countries, voiced concern about human rights violations in Egypt, including "restrictions on the rights to peaceful assembly, expression and association," and "the disproportionate use of lethal force by security forces against demonstrators."

ENP governs the relationship of Egypt and the EU.

According to ENP's website, the policy allows the EU to work with its southern and eastern neighbours to achieve the closest possible political association and the greatest possible degree of economic integration. This goal, according to ENP, builds on common interests and on values such as democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights, and social cohesion.

Egypt has been in an Association Agreement with the EU since 2004.

ENP has 16 countries as partners, including Ukraine, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Tunisia, Morocco and Israel.

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