Schaake: “Safeguards for human rights in operating EU situation room for Arab League
Dutch Member of the European Parliament Marietje Schaake (D66/ALDE) has asked EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton for clarification about a crisis centre the European External Action Service (EEAS) has built in the headquarters of the League of Arab States in Cairo. The EU provided for 1,9 million euros of computers and communication technologies to support crisis management in the Arab world. According to the EEAS the crisis centre marks the start of a ‘pan-Arab’ information network to which all EU member states should get access. “I am definitely in favor of improving coordination and cooperation between the EU and the Arab League in crisis situations, but I also want crystal clear guarantees that these technologies will not be used for domestic repression”, Schaake says.
Clarity of agreements
Together with 10 fellow members of the European Liberal group in the European Parliament Schaake has asked for more details of the cooperation. Schaake: “I want to know whether the EU can also continue using or operating the crisis centre should a crisis burst out in an Arab league member country, how sensitive European information is secured, who is operating the centre and whether these people enjoy diplomatic protection. What has been agreed on transparency and accountability? Clarity of the agreements is key, also because the European Parliament has to be able to check if the centre is ably managed and whether there are any results.”
Role of technologies
The League of Arab States currently has 21 members (Syria’s membership is suspended), including Bahrain, Libya, Saudi-Arabia, Iraq, Sudan and Yemen. Schaake: “In Arab league member states the definition of a crisis is often quite flexible. For instance, in Egypt the emergency law was invoked for 30 years. Moreover, all these countries have a worrying human rights track record. Technology plays an increasingly prominent role in the crackdown of revolts and tracking of dissidents. The EU should not in any way be involved in human rights violations.”
Following the revolts in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya the EU has reviewed its neighborhood policy. One of the core new principles is the so-called “more for more principle” which rewards progress in protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms with extra European cooperation, financial support and eventually market access. Schaake: “The current political or human rights situation in Egypt or Libya for instance, do not at all justify the construction of this crisis centre, I consider it as a strategic decision by Catherine Ashton and not as a reward of good behavior. With respect to human rights the EU cannot be critical enough at this time.”