Plenary speech on the situation in Egypt

Marietje Schaake, on behalf of the ALDE Group – Mr President, while I welcome the Commissioner, I really wish the High Representative, Ms Ashton, had been here herself. In Egypt, even when governments have changed, repression continues, and some would argue this is the worst we have seen yet. Now do not get me wrong. As a Liberal Democrat you will not hear me express a preference for going back to a political Islamic regime that was authoritarian. I also do not want to see a military regime restrict people’s rights and opportunities under a different banner. The country must urgently make progress and move towards a better future. For Europe our principles should be clear. But we must also be realistic. We do not have a whole lot of leverage and we have made mistakes in the past. So at least let us act according to our values and have the population of Egypt in mind as our main focus. That is in our mutual interest as well. Let us focus on the rights of minorities, whether they are Coptic or female. Today is international day of zero tolerance for genital mutilation. Egypt is among the countries with the highest numbers – about 75% of girls and women are mutilated. The position of journalists: yesterday a Dutch journalist was forced to leave Egypt after being accused of membership of a terrorist network. And, of course, many Egyptians have no such opportunity to return home to a free society with the help of diplomats. We must help ensure that they are not wrongfully imprisoned and that they can work and live in freedom. The question is really: what does the army have to fear from a free press and from activists like Ahmed Maher and the April 6 Movement, from Alaa Abd El Fattah and from the many, many other human rights activists that are now imprisoned and that should never have been tried by military courts in the first place? I am thinking of the journalists of Al Jazeera, Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed. Civil society and a free press that can do their work must be an integral part of a democratic Egypt if we actually want to see progress and no repression any more.