Wednesday

17th Aug 2022

EU and US warn against early Egypt elections

EU and US leaders have warned of the "chaos" that could result if President Hosni Mubarak steps down immediately, with a top US diplomat describing the role of the hardman as "utterly critical" and praising his "legacy."

"Early elections at the beginning of the democratisation process is probably the wrong approach," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told some 400 senior government officials and security experts at a high-level conference in Munich over the weekend.

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

  • Obama (r) listening to Mubarak in the Oval Office in September 2010 (Photo: White House)

"We did not want to wait for German reunification," she said, comparing the events in north Africa to the Cold War rupture in 1989 in Europe. "We did not have enough time to prepare, to set out a program, to inform the public ... You don't stand a chance if you do not set up new structures."

"There will be a change in Egypt, but it needs to be change in such a way that it is peaceful and orderly."

Speaking on a panel with EU Council President Herman van Rompuy, US secretary of state Hilary Clinton encouraged support for the new negotiations between the government and the opposition and for the first time explicitly backed September - a date previously named by Mr Mubarak himself - as the best moment for any changeover.

"There are forces which are trying to derail this process. It is important to support the Egyptian transition process and ensure that it is transparent and inclusive. The outcome must be an orderly conduct of elections in September," she said.

Her government's envoy to Egypt, diplomat Frank Wisner, went much further, saying that Mr Mubarak must be free to "write his legacy."

"President Mubarak remains utterly critical in the days ahead as we sort our way toward the future," he told the Munich meeting. "The president must stay in office to steer those changes through. I therefore believe that President Mubarak's continued leadership is critical; it's his opportunity to write his own legacy. He has given 60 years of his life to the service of his country."

For his part, the EU's Mr Van Rompuy criticised policies that emphasise stability over democracy.

"We stand behind the Egyptian people," he said. "Events in Tunisia and Egypt show that stability can result in immobility ... Therefore stability alone cannot be the ultimate answer."

Sweden's foreign minister, Carl Bildt, who has been critical of the EU's stance over north Africa over the last fortnight, repeated his opinion in an interview with the Reuters news agency. "The story of the West in the Middle East is nearly all the story of failures" he said.

The freshly-apointed Egyptian vice president Omar Suleiman on Saturday opened talks with opposition forces, including the Muslim Brotherhood, secular parties and a representative of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei. According to a statement from Mr Suleiman, the administration has offered to make constitutional amendments, to liberalise media, fight corruption and lift the state of emergency.

Support for Mr Suleiman, the head of Egypt's Mukhabarat, or intelligence service, for the past 18 years, as co-ordinator of any transition appears to be coalescing amongst EU and US policymakers. Protesters however say that the vice-president, who stands accused by human rights groups of overseeing the widespread use of torture - frequently in the service of Western governments during the war on terror, should be overthrown as well.

Meanwhile, German legislators said on Sunday that Mr Mubarak would be welcome in their country for an extended health check, according to domestic media.

'We need a peaceful transition in Egypt. If Germany can make a constructive contribution in the international framework, we should receive Hosny Mubarak - if he wants that,' said Andreas Schockenhoff, a senior Christian Democrat MP, reported Bild am Sontag, a statement echoed by the party's liberal Free Democrat coalition partners.

Finland restricts Russian tourist visas

Russian citizens were circumventing the European airspace ban by driving to Helsinki airport, which was being used as a hub to fly to other tourist destinations. Finland is now restricting those border crossings.

Conditions met for German nuclear extension, officials say

Conditions have been met for the German government to allow a temporary lifetime extension of three remaining nuclear reactors, according to the Wall Street Journal, as the country is facing a likely shortage of gas this winter.

Opinion

A year of Taliban — only aid is keeping Afghan kids alive

It's a year since the Western military presence in Afghanistan ended. A year since panic-stricken people flocked to Kabul airport, trying to flee the country, and girls and women waited fearfully for the disintegration of their hard-won rights.

Column

Is this strange summer a moment of change?

It is a strange, strange summer. The war in Ukraine continues, 60 percent of Europe is in danger of drought, and Covid is still around and could rebound in the autumn. At the same time, everyone is desperate for normalcy.

Germany rejects visa ban for Russian tourists

German chancellor Olaf Scholz said a total ban on tourist visas will not be supported by Berlin — adding that many refugees do not agree with the Russian regime.

Column

Is this strange summer a moment of change?

It is a strange, strange summer. The war in Ukraine continues, 60 percent of Europe is in danger of drought, and Covid is still around and could rebound in the autumn. At the same time, everyone is desperate for normalcy.

Opinion

A year of Taliban — only aid is keeping Afghan kids alive

It's a year since the Western military presence in Afghanistan ended. A year since panic-stricken people flocked to Kabul airport, trying to flee the country, and girls and women waited fearfully for the disintegration of their hard-won rights.

News in Brief

  1. Tens of thousands of Jews quit Russia since start of war
  2. Russia says GDP forecasts better than expected
  3. Spain 'hopeful' for new gas pipeline
  4. German troops return to Bosnia over instability fears
  5. Next UK PM candidates reject Scottish independence push
  6. Russia will not allow British spy plane overflight
  7. Discrimination in Germany remains high, new figures show
  8. US weighs plan to revive Iran nuclear deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  4. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us