EU unfolds strategy on the Egypt question

José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission received Habib Ben Yahia, Secretary General of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU). (EC Audiovisual Services).

José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission received Habib Ben Yahia, Secretary General of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU). (EC Audiovisual Services).

The European Union seems to have finally concluded that the ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ is a basic ingredient in Egypt’s political future and there will be no long-term viable solution of the present stalemate in this country without it. Despite the fact that the EU’s High Representative Catherine Ashton has adopted, along with the rest of the West and the UN, a mild attitude towards the military coup, it seems that the Union does not support the idea of a semi outlawed without political rights Brotherhood like in Hosni Mubarak’s era.

No future without the Brotherhood

Of course the EU didn’t go as far as to demand the reinstatement in the country’s Presidency of the ousted by the generals Mohamed Morsi nor did it ask for the release, of the apprehended by the army, Brotherhood’s leadership. Reading beyond the usual wording in announcements for the restoration of democracy, reconciliation and the rule of law, the European Union seems to have done its homework in analysing and gathering information from the local players.

The most relevant announcement on EU’s stance towards what is happening in Egypt was the one of 8 July. Its basic elements go like this: “Statement by the Spokesperson of High Representative
Catherine Ashton on the latest events in Egypt. “The events in Egypt over the past few days, in particular the confrontations which have resulted in so many deaths and injuries, are a cause of grave concern to all Europeans, and make even more urgent our call for an immediate end to the violence…The EU calls on all parties immediately to put in place a process which preserves civil liberties, and allows all political leaders to begin an inclusive dialogue, leading to elections in the shortest possible time. It will do all it can to support efforts to preserve calm and bring social and political peace across Egypt as stated by the High Representative in all her contacts with Egyptian leaders, and by EU Special Representative Leon in his contacts on the ground. These contacts include the Muslim Brotherhood”.

It is obvious that the European Union considers the Brotherhood as a basic element in Egypt’s future, despite Morsi’s attempts during the past twelve months to sidestep the Constitutional Court and impose a personal autocracy. On 8 July the European Sting writer Elias Lacon observed that: “There is no doubt that the Egyptian experiment of democratic political and economic transformation of the country by the Muslim Brotherhood has failed in every respect and the West recognised it”.

Now what?

The European Union seems to believe that the complete failure of Muslim Brotherhood during its brief period in power to deliver in the economic and the democratic fronts, has seriously undermined its political potential. As a result the brief announcement of an election within the next six months will keep this memory alive and voters are expected to punish the Brotherhood. In this strategy it is essential, that the period under the present, chosen by the generals, interim President Adly Mansour and his government is very brief and does not have the time to create a negative image for the secular political elite.

It is characteristic that the European Parliament adopted almost the same political logic. The Foreign Affairs Parliamentary committee issued a Press release saying that, “A number of MEPs favoured exerting all possible pressure on the interim Egyptian authorities, including financial and political pressure, in order to secure a credible roadmap to the restoration of democracy. The next Foreign Affairs Council on 24 July should give the EU a suitable deadline for making a reasoned judgement on whether the new authorities are going in the right direction, MEPs argued”.

Unfortunately all that does not exclude the possibility of a bloody civil war in Egypt. The confrontation will evolve along the lines of the present division between the religious and secular parts of the society. If this dreadful prospect materialises the EU will be the first western world region to pay the price. The Suez Canal is the European life line for in and outgoing commercial traffic and a large part of EU’s welfare depends on it.



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