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Merkel questions aid to Egypt

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NGO trial verdict sparks international concern into civil society

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) welcomes Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi at the Chancellery in Berlin on January 30, 2013.  (AFP File Photo)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) welcomes Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi at the Chancellery in Berlin on January 30, 2013.
(AFP File Photo)

By Mariam Iskander

German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticised the ruling handed down by a Cairo court last Tuesday against 43 non-governmental organisations (NGO) employees  convicted of receiving illegal foreign funding.

When asked on Friday whether Germany should toughen its restrictions on aid to Egypt, Merkel said they issued strong words concerning the closure of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the court ruling and that they “will keep an eye on the political situation in Egypt, to determine whether or not they need to modify restrictions on aid.”

The Carter Centre, a United States NGO founded by former US President Jimmy Carter, expressed in a statement on Thursday its concern about the shrinking space for civil society in Egypt, adding, “also troubling, is the restrictive and onerous draft legislation to regulate civil society that is under discussion at the Shura Council currently.”

The Carter Centre recognises the importance of civil society in aiding the current transition in Egypt, and it strongly encourages President Mohamed Morsi and members of the Shura council “to take proactive and positive steps to create a climate conducive to full participation in public life Egypt, both in law and in practice.”

The EU delegation Head, James Moran, on his visit last week noted improvements to the draft NGO Law but said they were not at the expected level, according to state-run Al-Ahram.

The spokesperson for the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the Commission Catherine Ashton expressed her concern “that the draft law still contains elements that can unnecessarily constrain the work of NGOs in Egypt and hinder our capacity as a foreign donor to support their work,” through a statement on the EU Delegation official website.

Moran added that the role of civil society organisations in facilitating the transition to democracy should not be undermined and that the Egyptian government should facilitate their work and not hinder their progress.

Earlier this week Ashton issued a joint statement in which she conveyed her concern at the court ruling that sentenced the 43 employees of the foreign NGOs to between one and five years in jail, saying that “this verdict conveys a negative signal regarding the work of civil society.”

 


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