by Elmar Brok and Mariya Gabriel, Members of the European Parliament
Walking the streets of Cairo, you can see the change that the Arab Spring has brought about.
The old regime has fallen. The instability which swept the country afterwards is gradually fading.
One daily challenge remains: the security situation with both terrorist attacks and the migration crisis.
Supporting genuine economic, security and social reforms for more stability
Economic reforms, the stability of the state and the security of citizens are key priorities for Egypt; this is what we discussed during our November visit to Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi. The EPP Group supports stability in the country, which is important because it leads to stability in the entire region and then in Europe.
Although Cairo is more than 5500km away from Brussels and the closest EU country - Cyprus - is more than 1500km away, the EU and Egypt face common challenges: the fight against terrorism and Islamic radicalisation, human trafficking and the economic downturn. Stability in the long run can only be achieved through genuine economic, security and social reforms.
Since the 2013 transition, more than 500 people have been killed in a new wave of terrorism in Egypt. Because of this, one of the main sources of income for the country - tourism - is now in dramatic decline.
Facing insecurity and unemployment, young Egyptians are travelling the path towards Europe in the hope of finding decent jobs. Now it is important for the Egyptian people to have support for their efforts to keep their tourist industry alive.
The EU is engaged in supporting the economic reforms undertaken by Egypt. These reforms are long overdue. Moreover, it is crucial that citizens feel the positive impact of the reforms in order to avoid growing frustrations.
More cooperation to coordinate migration flows
The migration crisis is hitting Egypt as well. As a neighbour of Libya, the country is extremely exposed to illegal migration and migrant smuggling.
It therefore has a major role to play in the stability of the Mediterranean region, including in the coordinated and common management of migration flows.
Both the EU and Egypt should start a dialogue on migration and mobility. We should firmly support Egypt in order to intensify cooperation on migration.
The country is now hosting refugees from neighbouring countries without receiving any foreign aid. Since there are no refugee camps in the country, the newcomers live alongside the Egyptian people.
According to the IOM and the UNHCR, approximately 1 million refugees are currently residing in Egypt. Primarily Sudanese, South Sudanese, Somali, Iraqi, Ethiopians, Eritreans, Yemenis and Syrians.
It is clear to us, and we discussed this with the Egyptian authorities, that migration and security issues are important. In this regard, we congratulated the Egyptian Parliament and authorities for their new anti-human-smuggling law, which does not criminalise irregular migrants, does not distinguish between Egyptians and non-Egyptians and safeguards Egypt’s protection in line with the country’s international standards. But it stipulates imprisonment and substantial fines for smugglers and accomplices.
Protecting human rights
The EU currently supports Egypt through numerous projects, which are integrated into three priority sectors:
- poverty alleviation, local socio-economic development
- governance, transparency and business environment
- quality of life, education, and environment.
However, the protection of human rights remains one of the main shortcomings in Egypt.
We will give our full support to any type of step towards the introduction of international standards in protecting human rights in Egypt.
The EPP Group supports the efforts of the Egyptian authorities, the parliament, religious authorities and civil society to develop a more democratic transition, promote economic development and stabilise the region.
After our two-day mission to Egypt, we returned to the European Parliament with a clearer and more accurate picture of the current situation there, of the common challenges faced by Europe and Egypt and with a stronger will to work together towards the stabilisation of the Mediterranean region. Egypt is a key partner and this mission was another step towards the reinforcement of our relations.
In a region where instability and conflicts are widespread, we would like Egypt to be an oasis of stability. This is why we stand by the authorities in their efforts to bring order, but at the same time safeguard human rights.