Mixed reactions in Europe over proposed constitutional amendments

Jonathan Spollen
4 Min Read

CAIRO: President Hosni Mubarak s proposed constitutional amendments have stirred mixed reactions from European Officials.

The amendments, which will ban the formation of religious parties, reduce the role of the judiciary in supervising elections and open the way for new anti-terror legislation, have been roundly criticized within Egypt as being anti-democratic.

There has of yet been no official statement made by the European Union or any of its associated members or bodies regarding the amendments, though early reactions expressed by a number of officials and spokespersons indicate apprehension.

Christina Gallach, spokeswoman for the EU s Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana, was unable to comment in-depth on the issue, but told The Daily Star Egypt that We support only those reforms that make the political process and its institutions more transparent and accessible.

Her statement was echoed by the German Foreign Office in Berlin. Germany currently holds the EU presidency, and the office s Press spokeswoman said We are watching the process very carefully, though we will wait until the referendum has been held to make a formal statement.

On March 6 the EU had provided Cairo with a $725 million aid package, designed to promote political, economic and social reform in Egypt.

Human rights are very much a part of this aid package, the spokeswoman added, and if these are not taken into account in the long term I imagine concerns will be voiced within the EU.

Speaking by phone to The Daily Star Egypt, Vice-President of the European Parliament, Edward MacMillan-Scott, deemed the amendments A major step backwards. A personal friend of imprisoned Al Ghad party chairman Ayman Nour, MacMillan-Scott served as an international observer in the first round of the last Egyptian parliamentary elections but didn t bother coming back for the first and second rounds.

Disappointment is the key word, he said. Europe had great hopes for Egypt, but now many feel we shouldn t have given the recent aid package because, from these amendments, it doesn t look like Egypt will live up to its end of the bargain.

A spokesman at the EU delegation headquarters in Cairo, who preferred to remain anonymous, however told The Daily Star Egypt that the delegation was optimistic over the proposed amendments, though he added it hadn t yet taken an official position.

We welcome any steps toward wider political participation, and over the long term, this could be a move in the right direction.

The delegation will continue to watch with interest what develops from here, the spokesman said.

The Press Officer at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs told The Daily Star Egypt that Egypt has made democratic progress in recent years … and we hope it will continue along this path.

Europe would only voice concern if the amendments were used to reverse that progress, she added.

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