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Parliament bites back after EU deplores ‘continued lack of basic political rights and freedoms in Egypt’

Given the “continued lack of basic political rights and freedoms in Egypt,” the European Parliament called for a “profound and comprehensive review” of the EU’s relations with Egypt on Thursday.

The resolution calls on the Egyptian government — the recipient of ongoing support from EU partners — to “abandon” the use of remand detention to hold tens of thousands of prisoners without trial and urges it to release the activist and British-Egyptian national Alaa Abd El Fattah along with scores of other lawyers, journalists and activists sentenced in politicized proceedings. 

“I very much hope that this resolution will bring about tangible changes; for the people in the country, the unjustly imprisoned and for the future cooperation between the EU and Egypt. The voice of the people of Egypt can no longer be suppressed,” Renew Europe MEP Jan-Christoph Oetjen told Mada Masr.

Rejecting the resolution as based on unconfirmed allegations and as a violation of sovereignty, Egypt’s House of Representatives published a response to the EU in a statement on Friday.

The resolution, passed on Thursday with 326 votes in favor, was put forward for discussion by Renew Europe, a socially liberal alliance with over 100 members in the European Parliament.

It noted “very limited progress” on Egypt’s human rights record despite a June meeting in which the EU Association Council and Egypt had underlined a shared commitment to promote democracy, fundamental freedoms, human rights, gender equality and equal opportunity.

In a number of public-facing moves toward addressing limited freedoms in the country over the past 18 months, the Egyptian government has launched the National Human Rights Strategy, undertaken to launch the National Dialogue — a public consultation forum heralded as a vehicle for political diversity and inclusivity — and has activated the Presidential Amnesty Committee, tasked with mediating the release of political prisoners and detainees in remand.

Yet the EU resolution states that “Egypt did not amend any relevant piece of legislation ahead of its hosting of COP27.”

“COP27 put a new public spotlight on human rights in Egypt,” according to Oetjen. In a security crackdown that coincided with the convention of the climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, 734 people were arrested since October 2022 and opposition-oriented civil society organizations were excluded from attending, the EU noted.

It also cited long-standing cases, urging Egypt to fully cooperate with the Italian authorities’ investigation into the 2016 murder in Cairo of Italian PhD student Giulio Regeni, who was tortured to death by security officials in 2016, and calling for the government to notify four security officials of ongoing judicial proceedings against them in Italy, while deploring the lack of a “credible investigation” into the death in custody of economist Ayman Hadhoud early this year.

Twelve international, regional and Egyptian civil society organizations praised the EU’s resolution, calling for sanctions on “people who bear responsibility for brutal repression.”

Yet, Egypt’s parliament was quick to voice its condemnation of the resolution. In the statement published Friday, Egypt’s House of Representatives said that the European Parliament’s resolution “flagrantly violates the independence of Egypt’s Public Prosecution and judiciary in breach of the guarantees of judicial independence as per international conventions.”

Denying the accusations listed in the EU resolution, the House recommended that the EU “focus on its own challenges in raising its human rights standards,” referring to “the dangers faced by refugees, immigrants and ethnic minorities” and to “the rise of several troubling trends that threaten societal peace and security, including Islamophobia.”

Despite the EU’s strongly worded statement, cooperation between Egypt and the EU flourished over 2022. Seeking new energy partners to replace Russia, the EU inked a major agreement with Egypt in June signaling plans for Egypt to increase the quantities of Israeli gas that it ships to EU countries from its liquefaction facilities on its Mediterranean coastline. Egypt has also received billions in financing from the EU over 2022, including a fund worth 80 million euros to support the Egyptian Coast Guard in purchasing “border control equipment” and 100 million euros in funding to support Egypt’s food security in light of the supply chain challenges brought about by the Russian offensive on Ukraine.

Source : Madamars