A member of the European Union (EU) parliament released a statement on Friday calling for a freeze on planned aid to Egypt, totalling five billion Euros.
The move came after President Mohamed Morsy issued a declaration which granted him immunity from the judiciary.
Marietje Schaake’s statement was released in the form of a letter to the EU high representative, Catherine Ashton.
The letter asks Ashton if she is “willing to condemn Morsy’s declaration and its effects as running contrary to fundamental principles such as the rule of law, the separation of powers and independent judicial oversight?” Schaake also asked Ashton if she saw the declaration a threat to the drafting of an inclusive and balanced constitution, further asking if Ashton would be willing to freeze all financial assistance to Egypt.
Ashton’s spokesperson Michael Mann said, in reaction to Morsy’s declaration, that it is of utmost importance that the democratic process be completed in accordance with the commitments undertaken by the Egyptian leadership. This includes the separation of powers, the independence of justice, the protection of fundamental freedoms and the holding of democratic parliamentary elections as soon as possible.
“It’s about ensuring that the conditionality that exists in proposed aid and assistance programmes pledged last week are invoked,” Schaake explained, saying it is important for the EU to “remind Egypt of its commitment to actual democratic reforms, the rule of law, human rights and respect for minorities.”
Schaake said these are clear conditions built in to any assistance programme given by the EU to countries in transition. “The idea behind it is called more for more,” she explained. More for more operates under the principle of rewarding countries undergoing transition and pledging genuine reforms. Under this system, the more reforms carried out by the country, the wider access it has to financial assistance, markets and aid during the transitional period. Schaake said that Egypt is a test case for the region, and the EU must make it very clear to Morsy and the government that such actions are not acceptable.
Referring to recent clashes in anti-declaration protests, Schaake said the battle for checks and balances should not have to be fought on the streets, but rather should have been enshrined in law.
“Morsy’s move,” Schaake said, “even if it is temporary will place him above judicial scrutiny and sends a bad signal because nobody should be above judicial scrutiny.” She said that such moves discourage business because investors want to know the law is applied equally.
Schaake has pledged she will follow up with her proposition, saying the EU parliament is committed to a democratic Egypt. She said the country’s political, religious and cultural diversity must be protected in the law “for the fundamental rights and the freedom and wellbeing for all Egyptians, this stability and trust are key to economic development.”
On Friday, the United States Department of State issued a statement which voiced “concerns” over the decree. It said the US government “encourages all parties to work together and calls for all Egyptians to resolve their differences over these important issues peacefully and through democratic dialogue.” The US President Barack Obama has yet to release a more detailed statement, but is expected to do so after the thanksgiving weekend.
Amnesty International also expressed their concerns surrounding the declaration, saying it heralds “a new era of repression.” Amnesty urged Morsy to “respect the principle that no one is above the law – including himself – by repealing recent amendments giving immunity to his decisions.”
Amnesty was also critical of the new law protecting the revolution, saying that such a law allows the public prosecutor to detain people up to six months in the name of the revolution. The organisation says such laws are merely restrictive provisions routinely used to punish peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association. “Under this decree reminiscent of the decried emergency law, people may be held for six months on spurious charges before they are finally brought to trial,” the statement read.
Morsy’s decree has sparked anger among opposition groups who have called for several marches and protests to take place.