The European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton arrived in Cairo on Sunday for talks with President Mohamed Morsi and leading opposition figures, including Mohamed ElBaradei and Amr Moussa.
A statement published by the EU on Saturday said that Ashton’s visit “forms part of the EU’s ongoing efforts to support the democratic and economic transition in Egypt”. She is scheduled to meet with Morsi, ElBaradei, Hamdeen Sabahy, Ahmed Said, Mohamed Abul-Ghar and El-Sayed El-Badawi.
Before her visit Ashton said: “This is a critical time for Egypt’s transition. The country is facing huge economic and political challenges.” She stressed that Europe “has to support Egypt in its move towards deep and inclusive democracy,” adding, “I will work hard in Cairo to engage with all parties to help build confidence and find common ground on both political and economic issues”.
Speaking in March to the EU parliament, Ashton called for calm, restraint and dialogue in Egypt. EU representatives have visited Egypt over the last 6 months in an attempt to foster dialogue between opposing political forces. In February, the EU Special Envoy for the Southern Mediterranean Region Bernardino Leon called for more trust to be established between opposing political parties and groups. Early in March the Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted political consultations with a EU delegation headed by Deputy Secretary General for the External Action Service Helga Schmid. In November the EU and Egypt agreed on an initiative to encourage European investment in Egypt.