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10th Dec 2022

EU sheds no tears over Morsi's departure

  • Morsi (r) and Ashton last year: The EU's top diplomat voiced hope the post-Morsi government will be more inclusive (Photo: European External Action Service)

The EU on Wednesday (3 July) tacitly approved the Egyptian army's defenestration of President Mohamed Morsi amid mass civil unrest.

The bloc's foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, in a statement published shortly after soldiers placed Morsi and his top people under house arrest, said the Union "remains unequivocally committed to supporting the Egyptian people in their aspirations to democracy and inclusive governance."

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She urged the junta to "rapidly" organise new elections.

She also said the future government must be "fully inclusive and ... ensur[e] full respect for fundamental rights, freedoms and the rule of law."

Earlier the same evening, as the dramatic events in Egypt were still unfolding, the Lithuanian EU presidency, speaking to MEPs in Strasbourg on Ashton's behalf, listed Morsi's sins.

Its EU affairs minister, Vytautas Leskevicius, said the Islamist leader was guilty of creating a "political stalemate" with secularist opponents, of arresting NGO activists, of restricting women's rights and of mismanaging day-to-day affairs, such as policing of petty crime and ensuring electricity and food supplies.

"Many people are feeling worse off than they were before 2011 [when Morsi came to power]," the Lithuanian minister said.

MEPs from the left and right also voiced sympathy with the millions of Egyptians who went on the streets in recent days calling on Morsi to go.

Spanish centre-right deputy Jose Ignacio Salafranca said "the voice of the people has to be listened to."

Dutch Liberal Marietje Schaake said Morsi had "lost legitimacy" in a "power grab" which went beyond the abuses of his predecessor, pro-Western dictator Hosni Mubarak.

Belgian Socialist Veronique de Keyser noted that while Morsi had been freely elected, his Muslim Brotherhood party ran the country's economy into the ground and installed an Islamist constitution which did not respect the rights of all Egyptian people.

An EU diplomatic source told EUobserver: "It's one thing to be democratically elected, but it's another thing when you have several million people against you on the street."

The contact added that the Egyptian security forces, whose chiefs date from the Mubarak era, were acting for the sake of "the safety and security of the country, making sure it doesn't descend into civil war."

EU institutions kept up to date with developments via the Cairo-based Arab League's Crisis Room.

The crisis centre, created with EU support last year, monitors Arab media and physically overlooks Tahrir Square in the Egyptian capital - the epicentre of the anti-Morsi rallies.

EU institutions also have inside contacts with the Egyptian military and intelligence services.

But the EU diplomatic source noted that Europe, at this stage in the new process, has little say on how things evolve.

"It's a very Egyptian thing," the contact said.

With the Muslim Brotherhood, which originated in Egypt, but which has chapters in several Arab countries, denouncing the events as a "coup d'etat," Morsi's overthrow risks inflaming tensions between Islamists and secularists in the region.

Ed Husein, a Middle East scholar in the Washington-based think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in the New York Times on Wednesday that Sunni Muslims could be radicalised by the brotherhood's "humiliation."

He noted: "The more extremist Islamists in the Arab world will say: 'We told you so. Democracy does not work. The only way to create an Islamist state is through armed struggle'."

Khalil al-Anani, a scholar at the UK's Durham University, who was in Cairo on Wednesday, told the Bloomberg news agency: "The collapse of the Muslim Brotherhood will lead to dangerous consequences … creating despair among young Islamists."

But some Arab diplomats have other concerns.

"There is a risk that the Muslim Brotherhood will come out on the streets [in Egypt] … But I am equally worried that the military now has more power than it ever did," an Arab contact said.

"They have shown who is really in charge," the diplomatic source added.

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