The EU crashed between Tunisia and Egypt

, by Alessio Pisanò

The EU crashed between Tunisia and Egypt

What is the EU doing with the riots in Egypt and Tunisia? Not so much, according to experts in Brussels. Weak declarations and pale positions are not enough to face one of the biggest challenges to international political environment. The revolution in Egypt and Tunisia, indeed, are showing a complete change not only in those countries but also a concrete switch in power balance in the Euro-Mediterranean political landscape.

Take Egypt. Some 80 millions people live in the biggest Arabic country, a hot spot politically and geographically for the EU relationship with the Middle East. Having been ruled by the semi dictator Hosni Mubarak for almost 30 years, the country is now being torn by popular movement asking for Mubarak leaving. Take Tunisia. Ben Ali, the leader of the government has been obliged to resign and to leave the country by a huge and organized movement busted in the streets by thousands of young people sick of having few rights and poor living conditions.

European voices between pro and against the protests

For the time being, what the EU has done is completely unsatisfactory. EU leaders adopted a toothless declaration at the summit in Brussels on 4 February. An embarrassed Lady Aston, in charge of the EU external politics, pledged to go in person to Egypt and Tunisia to have a touch of the real situation on the field. But how the EU through the European External Service intends to ease the transition in Egypt in unclear. It is difficult to believe the EU is to take a stage against Mubarak’s regime like Ben Ali’s. According to some EU leaders such as Mr Berlsuconi, “Egypt’s transition to democracy should take place without breaking with Mubarak”. As a result the last week leaders’ summit declaration falls too short in giving any indication of EU position on Egypt. Apparently an official declaration of the European Parliament is expected next week in Strasbourg.

An embarrassing situation similar to the EU position following the crackdown in Tunisia some weeks ago which led to the government being sacked. In front of 66 individuals dead under the Tunisian authorities’ fire denounced by humanitarian organisations, the French Foreign Minister’s declaration is astonishing “We should not set ourselves up as giving lessons to Tunisia about a situation that is complex”. Same position for the French Agricultural Minister: “Before judging a foreign government, better to know the situation on the ground and know exactly for which reasons such and such decision have been taken”. In the meantime, thousands of young people were gathering momentum in the streets of the capital calling for justice, freedom and human rights respect.

So why so many refrains for the EU taking position? The ONG Euro-Mediterranean Human Right Network denounced the alleged common interests between some EU Member states and the Tunisian government such as in immigration and fishing politics. Commissioner Fuele, in charge of Enlargement, visited twice Tunisia in the last months and is reported to be exasperated by pressures from some Member states.

This situation would put Europe in a hot spot where it is past the stage of written statements put out recently. The dismay of European public opinion at the delayed and weak response to the killing by foreign affairs chief Aston is getting to an unprecedented stage. The EU looks like never sitting on a volcano across North Africa. A strong, clear and common position is more than expected. In the meantime, Egypt rises up.

Demonstrators, source:

NB : This article was written before the dismissal of Mubarak.

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