Freedom of assembly and press freedom both saw deterioration in Egypt in 2013, said the European Union in a report.
“The relationship between Egyptian authorities and civil society deteriorated markedly during 2013, especially human rights [non-governmental organisations],” added the European Commission’s annual European Neighbourhood Policy Report on Egypt.
“2013 has been politically a very challenging year during which no particular progress can be reported in relation to the Action Plan currently in place,” noted the report, which was released this weekend.
“Due to the political developments, Egypt did not address key recommendations contained in last year’s ENP progress report, with the exception of the signature of the regional Convention on pan-Euro-Mediterranean preferential rules of origin. Past recommendations remain thugs largely pertinent,” said the EU.
The convention, signed by Egypt last year, promotes trade between Europe and a number of regions, including the Arab World.
The report called on Egypt to ensure that the new constitution be fully implemented with respect to human rights and fundamental freedoms. “National legislation should be compliant with the constitution and with international standards,” read the press release.
The EU also said that the Egyptian government should “create conditions conducive to an active and independent civil society and adopt legislation on NGOs and amend the law regulating assembly in line with international standards.”
The report also raised a number of human rights issues including human trafficking in Sinai, military trials of civilians, investigations of violence, and women’s rights and gender equality.
“The military held considerable sway over key political decisions in Egypt,” added the report. “The new constitution envisages a high level of autonomy for the military, as it would grant a final say over the position of Minister of Defence and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.”
The progress report also noted the overwhelming majority by which the amended constitution passed in a referendum in January, but added that “voters’ turnout was relatively low and there was little room left to the opposition in the electoral campaign”.
It called on Egypt to “organise genuine democratic presidential and parliamentary elections, in line with international standards” and “ensure macroeconomic stability and strengthen public finance management… and put in place necessary economic reforms”.
Last month the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs criticised the European Union for having a “certain political orientation” towards Egypt, saying the European body’s conclusions concerning Egypt reflected either a “lack of knowledge of what is happening on the ground” or a “deliberate disregard of what is happening on the ground”.
EU Foreign Ministers met in Brussels in February to convene the Foreign Affairs Council, which discussed a variety of EU foreign policy issues, including the situation in Egypt. The conclusions of the council on Egypt contained 15 points, some of which praised aspects of Egypt’s development, including the referendum process, the 2014 constitution, the transitional roadmap and the upcoming elections. However, the ministers expressed a wide variety of concerns relating to escalating violence, human rights, media freedom, “selective justice”, and the economy.