19th Sep 2019

Dodging question of Mubarak resignation, EU calls for transitional government

  • The EU is stressing the importance of peaceful dialogue (Photo: Sarah Carr)

The European Union has called for the Egyptian authorities to begin an "orderly transition" in the wake of the upheaval seen on the streets of the north African nation over the past week, but has stressed that it is not up to the EU to call on leader Hosni Mubarak to step down

EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels for their monthly meeting on Monday agreed to urge "the Egyptian authorities to embark on an orderly transition through a broad-based government leading to a genuine process of substantial democratic reform ... paving the way for free and fair elections."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Just how broad-based however remains up in the air.

Using wording that some could interpret as suggesting the exclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood - Egypt's large Islamist opposition group - from such an administration, the bloc said it wants the regime to begin a "serious and open dialogue with all political forces," but only those "ready to abide by democratic norms."

However, according to one EU source, there was considerable debate amongst ministers on the question of "whether the EU should be emphasising backing individual people or backing institutions." Notably, some states are more receptive to Mohamed ElBaradei than others, while some have very acute concerns about the popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood.

German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle, having just flown back from Tel Aviv, pressed his concerns about the potential hijacking of the uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood.

But the position that won the day was to support a process of reform with a majority of EU states opposed to picking favourites at this point. The EU says it is not making moves behind the scenes to give encouragement to any one group or individual.

"It is not for us to get involved in internal discussions," EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told reporters when asked whether Mr Mubarak should step down. Notably, in the same press conference discussing other foreign affairs issues, she called on Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, the incumbent president who refused to concede defeat in last November's election, to step down.

Questioned whether opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei was a credible interlocutor, she said: "ElBaradei has joined demos. He appear to be leading with the opposition parties. The important thing is to engage in dialogue."

"Let Egyptians decide who they will vote for and afterward the EU has a choice whether to engage with them."

"We cannot export revolution," said Luxemburgish foreign minister Jean Asselborn. "I'm certain the EU today will signal to people of good will in Egypt and Tunisia that we're ready to help organise elections, but not to interfere."

The Danish foreign minister reportedly compared the situation to that of the 2006 elections in the Palestinian territories, saying that the EU had waited to see how elections would go and when voters picked Hamas, the EU subsequently decided isolate them.

The final consensus was that the EU should wait to see what Egyptians do with their democracy before deciding how to respond.

Also dividing the states was the question of what direction the uprising will take.

Italian foreign minister and former EU commissioner Franco Frattini for his part raised concerns that Iran had cheered on the revolt. The Iranian foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, has described the events as part of a regional "Islamic awakening".

"Vigilant regional nations inspired by religious teachings and Islamic awakening are seeking to free themselves of the domination of hegemonic powers and gain real independence," he said on Sunday, according to an Iranian foreign ministry statement.

Other EU states were more sanguine, with some officials noting the lack of involvement of the Brotherhood up to now.

Said one member-state official concerning intelligence on the balance of forces: "What we're picking up on the ground is that it is not going to be as swift as Tunisia."

The ministers also called on both the government and demonstrators to "show restraint and avoid further violence" and demanded "an immediate end to looting."

The emphasis throughout has been on the maintenance of stability.

"The [Foreign Affairs] Council reiterates its support for a democratic, pluralist and stable Egypt as a key partner of the EU, mindful of its important regional role and sharing the goal of building stability, peace and prosperity in the ... region."


How should the EU handle Russia now?

Should West help Russian opposition in its struggle against the regime, or make new deals with Putin, as France is keen to do?

Central European leaders demand Balkan EU accession

Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia have demanded to open accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania this year, as Hungary's man prepares to take over the enlargement portfolio.

Just 5% of Europeans trust Trump

European voters believe that EU's foreign policies should be more coherent and effective in order to remain neutral in potential international conflicts, since most EU citizens no longer rely on the US security guarantee, according to a new report.

News in Brief

  1. EU adds €100m to research and Erasmus budgets
  2. Ambassador: UK Poles should 'seriously consider' leaving
  3. Trump's UK ambassador stirs up anti-EU feeling
  4. Brexit chaos is lesson to other EU states, ECB governor says
  5. EU condemns Israel's latest land grab
  6. Scotland to keep some laws aligned with EU after Brexit
  7. Spain to hold fresh election in November
  8. Turkey ups pressure on visa-free entry into EU


These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.


Time to pay attention to Belarus

Belarus may be hosting the European Games, but Vladimir Putin is not playing games when it comes to Belarus' independence. The West needs to get serious as well.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. A new Commission for the one percent
  2. Juncker: No-deal Brexit 'palpable'
  3. Germany adopts blockchain strategy and says no to Libra
  4. Revanchist Russia continues to rewrite European history
  5. How EU trains discriminate against the disabled
  6. These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission
  7. Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs
  8. Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us