This website is an archive of the work of Marietje Schaake in the European Parliament between 2009 and 2019. Marietje can be reached at marietje.schaake@ep.europa.eu

Blog: Egypt on the brink of a second revolution

Marietje
While largely unnoticed in the West, Egypt has been inching towards a second revolution. Economic disaster under the Morsi-rule has ignited disquiet and polarization. The European Union has missed opportunities to foster the democratic promise of Tahrir. The EU must be both smarter and tougher in dealing with Egypt. All indications are that tomorrow, exactly one year after President Morsi’s inauguration, Egypt will live a second revolution. Under a collapsing economy, sky-high youth unemployement (three-quarters), increasing crime rates (+350 per cent in 2012) and an autoritarian Islamist regime, Egypt’s social fabric has further unravelled and has become more confrontational. Massive demonstrations have been annouced for tomorrow, with clashes during the last week already leaving several dead and dozens injured. Tamarod (or ‘Rebel’), a protest-movement, says it has received 15 million online endorsements for its clear demand: “Morsi must step down”. In response, his party, The Moslim brotherhood, founded a counter-movement: Taggarod (or ‘impartiality’). Judging from previous mass protests and the clashes of the past days a violent confrontation seems unavoidable – despite Tamarod’s appeal to its supports to refrain from violence. The army already announced it stands ready to step in to protect public order. The EU is too much on the sidelines to prevent the regime from repression and polarization, or to encourage it to make necessary reforms. That is problematic, especially now Egypt that is so fragile. Not since the demonstrations against Mubarak was unrest this massive. Only 28 per cent support the President, mainly followers of his party or ultraconservatives. The split opposition combined has a 30 per cent support. Meanwhile the army enjoys almost unanimous support. Egypt is adrift and seeks leadership and the army seems like a safe bet now. Thousands of citizens convicted by the military courts during the brief junta between Mubarak and Morsi would surely disagree. Military rule would not offer any solution to the socio-economic problems that are at the base of both the disquiet and ungovernability of the country. In the short run, the freefall of the economy should be stopped to break the downward spiral of action and reaction on the streets. Only in more stable economic conditions, based on the rule of law, Egypt can work on an improved constitution, hold parliamentary elections and engange in a national dialogue. Neigbouring countries Qatar, Saudi-Arabia and Libya have provided an emergency injection worth 13 billion USD. The immediate danger of an Egyptian default has been prevented for the time being, but this support comes at a price. The next big step is an IMF loan worth 4,8 billion, that would also release other internationally pledged money. Yet the IMF will not strike a deal before an impopular but necessary package of structural economic reforms has been agreed. Exactly these measures are not being taken. We are witnessing a race to the bottom. Europe is basicially on the sidelines. We need a clearer strategy. The understandable outrage over European budget support to the Egyptian authorities comes at a moment that actually requires an emergency injection. Not to the authorities, but to civil society, for broadband internet connections, joint efforts with the manufacturing industry to better school youth. The business dialogue of the EU-Egypt ‘Task Force’ could serve as a platform. In a perfect world oppontents would reach a consensus. But in the current transition that seems too much to ask for. It is high time the democratic proces moves from the street to the parliament. Confrontations often turn violent and cause mistrust. This in turn is detrimental to any foreign direct investment. The course of tomorrow’s protests will determine Egypt’s coming years. The EU has to use this new breaking point to act thorougly. After the ousting of President Mubarak, commitments made have created expectations, people are counting on the EU. Furthermore, Egypt is the EU's largest neighbouring country in the Southern Mediterranean. Because of its seize it could play an important regional role, and become a future partner of the EU. It is not too late for renewed efforts to prevent Egypt from failing. Such efforts are also in our own interest. Especially now the regime is incapable or unwilling to lead or bring about change, the Egyptian population should be able to count on our support. Effectiveness of support for projects with clear goals and benchmarks, joint responsbility, are easier to manage and monitor; we must work along solid criteria. Broad budget support is often in vain, and off limits with sufficient respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.