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EU sidelines parliament to rapidly send €1bn to Egypt

  • European commission president Ursula von der Leyen with Egypt's strongman leader Abdel Fattah al-Sissi (Photo: European Union, 2024)
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The European Commission is officially sidelining the European Parliament's scrutiny role when it comes to €1bn of loans being sent to Egypt.

The announcement came ahead of a €7.4bn cash-for-migration-control agreement with Cairo, posing tricky questions for an increasingly frustrated European Parliament.

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European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen says, in a letter dated 15 March and seen by EUobserver, that the urgency of wiring the money to Cairo requires her to bypass the assembly.

She has since decided to trigger article 213 in the EU treaty, allowing the European Commission to go at it alone.

"For reasons of utmost urgency and highly exceptionally, the recourse to of Article 213 TFEU is considered as appropriate legal basis for the first operation of EUR 1 billion," she writes, in a letter sent to European Parliament president, Roberta Metsola.

The €1bn comes out of €5bn in macro-financial assistance (MFAs). MFAs require a European Parliament stamp of approval.

But the European Commission says Egypt is in dire need of funds now and that normal parliament scrutiny would take too long.

"The current crises in Egypt and the region have exacerbated Egypt's financing needs, with a substantial overall financing gap in the upcoming fiscal year," says Von der Leyen, in her letter.

She also promised to get the European Parliament involved in the remaining €4bn in MFAs.

But such moves are unlikely to appease critical MEPs, already upset over being ignored by the European Commission following a similar agreement with Tunisia last summer.

And a separate €35bn investment deal from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for Egypt also casts doubt on von der Leyen's urgency logic.

The recent UAE agreement also comes on the back of expanded IMF loans totalling $8bn for Egypt.

Egypt's external debt has soared over the past two years, including billions owed to Russia for the construction of the Dabaa nuclear power plant.

Critics warn that EU funds and loans only ends up legitimising president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's military dictatorial rule.

Human Rights Watch says his state is behind the massacre of protestors, as well as the jailing and torturing of thousands of dissidents.

But Egypt is also host to some 9 million international migrants and around 480,00 registered refugees and asylum seekers.

Many transit through Egypt towards Libya in the hopes of reaching European shores, spooking EU leaders into action.

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