GlobalIn Egypt, Europe does not fully assume responsibility for putting other priorities...

In Egypt, Europe does not fully assume responsibility for putting other priorities ahead of human rights

After all, it is not every day that the EU signs an agreement with 7.4 billion euros in European donations and loans, with a “strategic” partner like Egypt. The objective of this deal is to“intensify political dialogue” and of “working together on our commitment to promoting democracy and human rights”, assured Ursula von der Leyen. It is the first of six pillars (along with economic stability, trade, migration, security, and talent exchange) of this agreement, as listed by the European executive.

Nice try (or not). In reality, the aid announced is not conditional on profound democratic reforms in Egypt, nor focused on supporting such initiatives. Like any self-respecting autocrat, al-Sissi won the December presidential election with the fabulous score of 89.6% of the vote. In the country, all opposition is stifled, political prisoners number in the thousands, freedom of expression is non-existent. On Sunday, the press conference gave a certain taste of the nature of the regime. Journalists were severely screened at the entrance, supposedly due to lack of space in a huge room. No questions.

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While all European leaders were full of compliments towards Egypt, only Mr. De Croo saw fit to remind Cairo on Sunday that a “dynamic civic space will open new perspectives for the younger generation”. And to ensure that this partnership, whose interest he defends, can also encourage dialogue with Egypt on this subject.

But that is not the objective. There are audible arguments for entering into such an agreement. Just by its geography, Egypt is an essential and stable partner, in a region tormented by conflicts in Libya, Sudan, Syria and Gaza. He plays a key role as mediator between Israel and Hamas, as well as in delivering humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. It is a country of transit (and departure) of migrants to the EU, which feels the urgent need to cooperate with Cairo to curb this phenomenon, a few months before the European elections, marked by a far right on the lookout. It presents great potential for producing green hydrogen, facing a Europe in search of new energy resources. Above all, it can allow the Union, which is often criticized for its geopolitical timidity, to gain weight in the Middle East.

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This partnership responds above all to a supposed logic – the validity of which remains to be proven – geopolitical and realpolitik. The whole indecency of the European Commission is to try to pass it off as progress in terms of human rights. These indeed constitute a blind spot, which could prove fatal for an agreement in which one of the parties is only dependent on the goodwill of a dictator.

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