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Letter to High Representative Ashton concerning Egypt


Strasbourg 17, April 2014

Honourable Lady Ashton, Recent developments towards greater authoritarianism in Egypt are cause for great concern. Egypt has the potential to be an economic and political leader in a fragile and turbulent region and, as such, is an important partner for the European Union. In your recent visit to Cairo, you addressed a number of important issues. However, the EU needs to be more vocal and more involved if we are to have an impact. Furthermore, we must focus our efforts on the Egyptian people and their rights, and not limit ourselves to the current regime and its figureheads. Relations between Egypt and Europe should be built on more than government to government relations. While the organisation of the referendum on the new Constitution was welcome, the EU did not sufficiently address the resistance faced by people critical of the referendum, or about the power it gives the armed forces. The finalisation of the agreement to set up an EU electoral observation mission for the upcoming presidential elections on 23 and 24 May is welcome. But we must not forget that in moving the Presidential elections ahead of the Parliamentary elections, the Egyptian government has not respected the agreed roadmap. We do welcome the EU Election Observation mission that stands ready to observe the elections. It is within this broader context that we must address further problems concerning the rule of law and respect for human rights and freedoms in Egypt. The hard-handed government reaction to demonstrations in which hundreds of people have died, in combination with the implementation of a law which severely restricts the freedom of assembly shows a very serious lack in respect for fundamental rights. This is mirrored in harsh restriction of freedom of speech and freedom of the press and media. Both Egyptian and international media and journalists are censored, intimidated, imprisoned and prosecuted. This includes several EU citizens, such as Rena Netjes, who was forced to flee Egypt. The abuse of terrorism laws in this respect is unacceptable. Another great concerns is the continued detention of several members of the April 6 movement, including Ahmed Maher, Mohammed Adel and Ahmed Douma. Detaining these activists, and many others, runs counter to the Egyptian government’s commitments and duties with regard to respect for human rights and freedoms. The EU needs apply pressure to urge that sentences are overturned in their final chance of appeal or through a Presidential pardon. We recall that the European Parliament awarded one of the Members of the April 6th movement the Sakharov Prize, and that we welcomed Ahmed Maher in the European Parliament in the past. Egypt, as a crucial country for a more stable future for the Middle East and North Africa, with a young population whose rights need to be respected, should be high on the agenda for EU foreign policy. We cannot afford to close our eyes to the fundamental problems in Egypt and we need more clarity on how we will address them. The European Council for Foreign Affairs, under your guidance, needs to formulate a strategy on what our approach will be in the coming months and years. An approach based on our values, but using every instrument we have available to us, to get the result that we want, an open, free and democratic society which can be a partner for the EU and in which the Egyptian people can enjoy a respect for their rights and freedoms. Let us give meaning and substance to the promise of 'More for More'. We look forward to your answers on what the European approach to the challenges we face in Egypt will be. Sincerely, Marietje Schaake Saïd El Khadraoui Jelko Kacin Sarah Ludford Marisa Matias María Muñiz de Urquiza Alexandra Thein