Cash to support “Egypt’s own political reform agenda, says EU
CAIRO: In the name of promoting democratic reforms in Egypt, the European Union is providing the Mubarak government with a massive new aid package worth ?558 million.
The cash, which is to be doled out over a four-year period, is also earmarked to implement the European Neighborhood Action Plan (ENAP), which aims to strengthen political, economic and cultural ties between the EU and neighboring, non-member states like Egypt.
The action plan will be formally adopted in Brussels on March 6 and is intended to support “Egypt’s own political reform agenda, according to an EU press release.
The cash announcement was made on Feb. 26 by EU commissioner for external relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who was in Egypt earlier this week on a tour of the Middle East.
However, when asked by reporters yesterday which Egyptian democratic reforms in particular the EU was aiming to support with the cash, Ferrero-Waldner refused to give specifics.
Indeed, the EU money comes at a time when many observers feel that democratic organizations in the country are under increasing government threat.
On Wednesday, a Cairo judge upheld an earlier court order that froze the assets of 29 Muslim Brotherhood members, and the Mubarak government is pushing for constitutional amendments that will limit the independence of the judiciary.
“The proposed amendments would also weaken constitutional guarantees of human rights in order to pave the way for lifting the state of emergency is favor of a counter-terrorism law, writes Bahey Eldin Hassan, director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights, in the Feb. 2007 edition of the Arab Reform Bulletin.
“The next move in the game will be to pass a raft of laws stemming from the amendments, thereby completing the constitutional and legislative process of closing the political opening in Egypt.
Meanwhile, Klaus Ebermann, ambassador of the European Delegation in Egypt, said that little can be accomplished by forcing the Egyptian government to ramp up the democratic reform process.
“It’s very much a deepening . and it gives us additional tools, he said, deflecting criticism that the EU has been too soft in promoting democratic reforms in Egypt.
He added that the action plan, which includes “institution building and working with civil society organizations, is “a very high-caliber political agenda.
“It’s not about banging on the table and imposing, Ebermann told reporters, adding that the EU prefers to take a “positive rewarding approach to encourage the Egyptian government to move towards a more open democracy.
“There is a red line we will not cross, he added.