As an Egyptian citizen working in the European Parliament, I think last week’s resolution on Egypt and the case of the killing of Italian researcher Giulio Regeni deserves a lot of attention, at least to avoid important misunderstandings.
First of all, contrary to what I have heard from some misinformed commentators, the European Parliament is not misinformed and has the highest consideration and respect for Egypt. It has followed Egypt along many of its recent stages — the happy moments of hope and its difficult moments too. This resolution of March 10 is not the first of its kind and there have been many resolutions on Egypt since March 2013. The European Parliament welcomed the January 25 revolution with admiration and hope, denounced the repression and oppression of the Muslim Brotherhood when they were in power, called on all parties to refrain from violence in 2013, welcomed Egypt’s new Constitution in March 2014, and again condemned the worrying repression against Egyptian journalists, novelists, researchers and NGOs, which are important voices to build a strong and rich society for all.
There is no conspiracy against Egypt here. I think most of the time talk of conspiracies diverts attention from the really important subjects. Europe’s parliament follows developments in Egypt closely, despite everything, with the confidence that Egyptians will succeed in building a country that is stronger, more stable, more democratic and prosperous. Egypt, the land of Naguib Mahfouz and so many talents, deserves nothing less.
Second, the European Parliament does not pretend to be in a position to give lessons to Egypt, on the contrary it is expressing concerns from a friend to a friend. Europe’s parliament is also very worried by rising discrimination against Arabs and Muslims in Europe since 9/11, and even more since the multiple attacks in Paris. Every month the European Parliament condemns violations of human rights inside Europe, for example the shameful treatment of refugees in several countries or corruption scandals inside the European Parliament itself.
That being said, there is an important value in a resolution adopted by an overwhelming majority of 588 directly elected members in a powerful parliament which decides on the laws of the world’s biggest market. They are Egypt’s real friends, from all member states and all political groups, declaring their strong support for a successful EU-Egypt dialogue on all subjects, from trade to security cooperation against Islamic State, but also to seriously advancing human rights.
The only 10 members who opposed the resolution on Egypt are far-right racists who believe Arabs and Muslims have less value than Europeans. This small fascist minority is against any dialogue and does not share human rights as a value. The other 59 members who abstained on the resolution are France’s racist extreme-right from Le Pen’s Front National party, and its equivalent in other countries. Their silence on the resolution does not mean they are Egypt’s friends. They do not care for Egypt at all, instead they launch campaigns against the rights of all Arab Muslim immigrants in Europe.
Egyptians should be reassured that the European Parliament has sent a united message to Egypt by 588 friends of Egypt on March 10, because those voices are moderate, respectable and professional men and women leading their countries in Europe.
Once we understand the importance and the complexity of European-Egyptian relations, we can discuss the message of the resolution. The resolution was misquoted as calling for a complete cut of military and security relations with Egypt. That is false. The European Parliament only said that it wants EU member states to suspend transfer of equipment that can be used for repression — that does not include most of the cooperation. The situation is worrying in Egypt but it is not comparable to Syria, and cooperation in the military and security fields continues but with vigilance because of the use of force against civilians that we are seeing in Egypt. The highest authorities in Egypt have pledged to deal with this violence, and we hope the parliament’s draft laws to reduce human rights violations will be successfully implemented, even if it takes some time.
Lastly, official Egyptian responses failed to notice that the European Parliament has fully considered Egypt’s sensitive security situation, so allow me to quote directly from the official resolution:
The European Parliament “Underlines the importance that the European Union attaches to cooperation with Egypt as an important neighbour and partner and Egypt´s role for stability in the region; shares the concerns of the Egyptian people about the economic, political and security challenges facing their country and their region; condemns the terrorists’ attacks on Egyptian civilians and military.”
Egypt and the EU are two friends that should really care for each other — our shared history and culture is worth it, and our future together is the only way forward. Slowly but surely, dialogue will improve and I hope as an Egyptian-French citizen to have helped in doing this.
This article was originally published in Arabic on Al-Shorouk.