Egypt needs inclusive dialogue for democracy: EU official

Bassem Aly , Thursday 4 Jul 2013

The EU is ready to back Egypt's transition to democracy, Marietje Schaake tells Ahram Online, but it needs some guarantees that assistance programmes will not be misused

Marietje Schaake
Member of the European Parliament Marietje Schaake (Marietje Schaake's Facebook Page)

An inclusive dialogue between political forces is required in paving the way for a democratic political system in Egypt, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Marietje Schaake told Ahram Online.

Shaake said that signs of democracy, such as free and fair elections, constitutional reforms and a "civilian-led process," will be essential for economic recovery and reforms.

"Egyptians need perspectives on a better life and self-determination. However, checks and balances cannot continue to come from the streets, but must be guaranteed through laws, procedures and institutions," she said.

Shaake, representing the Democrats 66 Party from the Netherlands in the European Parliament, stated that "a lot of work has to be done for Egypt to mature and realise its democratic aspirations."

"This will require responsible behaviour from all Egyptians," she noted.

Answering a question about prospects of EU assistance to Egypt, Scaake expressed the readiness of the EU to help Egypt with "know-how," urging a quick transfer of power to an elected civilian government.

"We are ready to send election monitors for what we hope will be free and fair elections. We regret that there was no invitation to the EU to monitor the elections before," Schaake asserted.

Concerning human rights' aspects in Egypt, the Dutch MEP said the so-called Venice Commission has offered advice around the drafting of a new NGO law that avoids hindering or criminalising the work of civil society organisations.

Schaake also spoke about the role of the military institution in the coming period.

"I urge the military not to try civilians before military courts, or for anyone to perform any more 'virginity tests.' The role of women remains vulnerable, and there is an immediate need for the police to keep the streets safe," she said.

On Wednesday, the European Union called for a rapid return to democracy in Egypt after the armed forces announced the removal of President Mohamed Morsi from power and establishing a new transitional roadmap.

Economic plans

Schaake said the EU "stands ready" to provide greater market access when Egypt makes progress towards democratic transformation and protecting minority and human rights and fundamental freedoms.

She described such market access as potentially of key value for the Egyptian economy.

"The EU has reserved five billion Euros for several kinds of assistance and loans for Egypt. For the EU to be able to make the money available, the Egyptian authorities need to meet a number of benchmarks. This has not proven sufficiently possible under the Morsi government; most of the five billion Euros are effectively frozen," she assured.

Schaake referred to a report presented by the European Court of Auditors, which revealed that money provided to the Egyptian government between 2007 and 2012 has not been spent well, and "in some cases has disappeared".

"Such reports will not make it easier to make money available, because European public support will diminish when there are no results, and instead, money does not reach the people of Egypt, for whom it is intended", Schaake emphasised.

"I believe the EU must make sure its programmes and funds go to economic development, advancing human rights, and the transition towards the rule of law."

Schaake hoped that the EU would not "repeat mistakes from the past" through reaching clear agreements on benchmarks that guarantee aid delivery to the Egyptian people instead of aid "disappearing in corrupt pockets" or inefficient projects.

Speaking about the issue of the stolen Egyptian funds located in European states, Schaake said the EU has returned a number of assets that were frozen because they "were considered stolen" by the Egyptian government and had been kept in European banks.

"It is essential, however, that funds that were stolen from the Egyptian people by corrupt leaders are only returned when there is trust that the government will ensure the money is spent in the interest of the Egyptian public," Schaake added.

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