The European Parliament adopted a strongly worded resolution on Thursday that condemns the recent government crackdown and wave of arrests in Egypt and calls on European Union member states to completely review their relations with Cairo.
Citing the arrest of more than 4,300 people since the anti-government protests on September 20, the resolution condemns Egyptian authorities for “the ongoing restrictions on fundamental rights in Egypt, notably freedom of expression both online and offline, freedom of association and assembly, political pluralism and the rule of law.”
The resolution names prominent activists, lawyers and others who have been detained and calls on Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release them, including Eman Al-Helw, Mohamed Ibrahim, Mohamed Ramadan, Abdelrahman Tarek, Ezzat Ghoneim, Haytham Mohamadeen, Alaa Abd El Fattah, Ibrahim Metwally Hegazy, Mahienour al-Massry, Mohamed El-Baqer and Esraa Abdel Fattah.
It also calls for the release of detained opposition figures arrested in the “Coalition for Hope” case, including Ziad el-Elaimy, Hassan Barbary and Ramy Shaath, as well as members of the Bread and Freedom Party, Dostour Party and the Egyptian Social Democratic Party.
The resolution is also significant for calling for a “ profound and comprehensive review” of Europe’s relations with Egypt and for “a serious revision” of EU aid. It also reiterates calls for EU member states to halt exports to Egypt of arms, surveillance technology and other security equipment “that can facilitate attacks on human rights defenders and civil society activists.”
During the debate on the resolution on Thursday, at least 12 parliamentarians called for cooperation with Egypt be made conditional on an improvement in the human rights situation, according to Leslie Piquemal, the senior EU advocacy representative for the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.
The resolution also urges Egyptian authorities to “stop blocking the websites of local and international news organisations and human rights organisations and to release all media workers detained for doing their journalistic work.”
The European Parliament has little power over the foreign policy of EU member states and can only highlight concerns and offer advice. Over the last several years, Europe has dramatically increased its weapons exports to Egypt, with countries like France and Germany selling billions of Euros worth in arms to the Sisi government.
Yet the resolution comes at a key juncture with Josep Borrell, the new High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, taking office soon to replace Federica Mogherini, along with the new European commissioners.
In 2020, the European Commission will prepare for the next four years of cooperation with Egypt and negotiate the 2021-2024 EU-Egypt Partnership Priorities — a policy document that should orient all EU-Egypt cooperation, including development funding.
The last resolution the European Parliament passed on Egypt came this past December and condemned “continuous restrictions on fundamental democratic rights” in Egypt and called on the Egyptian government to end its crackdown on human rights workers, journalists, activists, the LGBTQ community and civil society organizations, among others.