Monday

29th Nov 2021

Egypt's Islamo-diplomacy comes to EU capital

  • Morsi: Barosso thanked him for coming to Brussels on his first official trip to Europe. But Morsi's first state visit abroad was to China (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Egyptian leader Mohamed Morsi invoked the Koran while promising to protect visitors to Egypt after the killing of US officials in Libya.

Speaking in Brussels with European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso on Thursday (13 September), he said: "We are eager to protect visitors, tourists, diplomatic missions, public and private properties. We are required by god to respect them and to be custodians of those vistors and we know that if one person is killed without justification, it is as if someone has killed all of humanity."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The pledge, which Morsi reiterated three times, is an allusion to verse 5.32 in the Koran, which can be translated: "He who kills a person unless it be [in legal punishment] ... [it] will be as if he had killed all human kind."

It is also an allusion to Arab mores on hospitality for travellers and pilgrims.

Morsi's statement is his first direct reaction to the killing of the US ambassador to Libya in Benghazi on Tuesday.

Initial reports indicate the Islamist group Ansar Al Sharia carried out the attack.

But popular Arab anger over a US-made film - the Innocence of Muslims, which mocks the prophet Mohammed - also played a part in the events, as well as in violent protests against the US embassy in Cairo this week.

The new Egyptian leader, from the Muslim Brotherhood party, portrayed post-revolutionary Egypt as a "modern ... civilized" place.

He noted that out of his five top officials, one is a woman and one is a Christian. "My team is made up of Muslims and Copts, women and men," he said.

He also interjected when Barroso spoke of respect for "all Egyptians, regardless of gender or creed" to add: "We are fully agreed on this matter."

But the two politicians sounded different when talking about the US film.

Barroso said he has "the deepest respect for Islam," but noted that "freedom of expression should not be confronted with propagation of hate."

Morsi said he told US President Barack Obama on the phone he should stop such films from being made: "I assure you after my conversation with President Obama that the American people is also against this [making offensive films]. This is a minority. I asked him to put an end to such behaviour."

The image of post-revolutionary Egypt is important for the country's economy.

Foreign investment and tourism plummeted in the wake of the uprising which toppled pro-Western dictator Hosni Mubarak in February last year.

Barroso said investor confidence is also important for stability.

"The Egyptian population has high expectations of democratic transition leading to social and economic benefits in the short term. These expectations are diffuclt to manage," he noted.

He said the EU will this year contribute €130 million for "job creation ... technical education" in the country.

It is also "considering" another pledge of €650-700 million to help Egypt to balance its budget and is "ready to start talks" on an EU-Egypt free trade agreement.

In other items, Barroso and Morsi urged Syrian leader Bashar Assad to step down.

"There is no place for a President who is killing his own people. No place," Morsi said.

He dodged a press question on whether Arab countries should intervene militarily, however.

The EU press briefing also skirted past the other big topic in the region: the Arab-Israeli conflict.

"We also mentioned Egypt's role in the [Middle East] Peace Process," Barroso said at one point.

It was the only reference to the issue amid Israeli fears that its old peace deal with Mubarak is under threat.

Morsi is due to meet with EU Council Herman Van Rompuy and EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, who invited him to Brussels in the first place, later in the day.

EU reviews safety of Libya diplomats

The EU's foreign service is considering whether to temporarily close its office in Benghazi after the killing of the US ambassador to Libya.

EU and US thank Egypt for Gaza truce

EU and US statements after one week of Gaza hostilities underline the new status of the Muslim Brotherhood in the region.

News in Brief

  1. Covid variant: EU to block travel from southern Africa
  2. France and UK seek EU help on Channel migrants
  3. New Swedish PM who resigned after 7 hours gets second chance
  4. Belgium to decide on Friday on Covid measures
  5. UK rings alarm on new Covid strain in South Africa
  6. Turkish police use tear gas at women's rights march
  7. Poland calls for more Nato troops
  8. Ex-Navalny aide leaves Russia

Opinion

Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.

Analysis

Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. Belgium goes into three-week 'lockdown light'
  2. MEPs list crimes of 'Kremlin proxy' mercenaries
  3. EU to open up 'black box' of political ads
  4. Can the ECB solve climate change and inflation on its own?
  5. EU set to limit vaccine certificate to nine months
  6. Surprise coalition in Romania without former Renew's Ciolos
  7. This 'Black Friday' is a turning point in corporate accountability
  8. West struggling to show strength on Ukraine

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us