Plenary speech on the situation in the Mediterranean, in particular in Tunisia and Egypt

Marietje
Madam President, right now, as we stand here, citizens in Egypt are being trapped and attacked in Tahrir Square and the army and the police are reportedly attacking instead of protecting. In their peaceful protests Egyptians of diverse backgrounds ask for respect for human rights and democracy, political reform and good governance, and socio-economic development. Perhaps these demands sound familiar to you as they are precisely the goals of EU programmes in the Middle East, and in Egypt specifically. The Commission alone has spent a total of almost EUR 3 billion on this in the past 15 years. As the people’s demands are already in line with our policy objectives, why is it so difficult to make a strong EU statement quickly? The need for a strong, proactive Europe is more urgent than ever. As the sun of freedom and democracy rises over the Middle East, clouds of division are hampering European unity and the ability to take responsibility. I urge you to look at what is happening as we speak and to act in unequivocal support of the people. Their rights and the EU’s credibility are tied. Another phenomenon consistently present in the relations between people and dictatorships is communication and information technologies. The Tunisian Government ranked among the most severe users of censorship, surveillance and filter technologies to repress citizens. European companies, such as Vodafone and French Telecom, have had a strong presence in Egypt and in killing the connections by flipping the switch and shutting Egypt down. I would like to see an inquiry into the role that European companies played in the violations of human rights by hampering free expression, a free press and access to information and creating an environment in which human rights violations could go undocumented.