By Martin Banks - 14th November 2012
The Task Force will be an important and historic vehicle
British MEP Sajjad Karim has hailed this week's EU/Egypt 'task force' as a "historic" step towards promoting democracy in the trouble-torn region.
The ECR deputy, who is a member of the taskforce, was speaking on Tuesday from Cairo after a series of "landmark" meetings with Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi and the country's prime minister Hisham Kandil.
The EU delegation, headed by EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, aims to discuss political and economic issues affecting the country after the 'Arab Spring'.
Speaking to this website, Karim, who is due back in Brussels on Thursday, said, "This week we will be signing off some €500m worth of support for the Egyptian economy.
"Parliament's role in this process is very welcome and Ashton deserves credit for her initiative."
The deputy, a member of parliament's delegation for relations with Mashreq countries, added, "The Arab spring has come and gone and a new struggle in Egypt is emerging. The country is keen to shift the focus from revolution to evolution and put itself on the path to economic and democratic prosperity.
"When I visited Egypt earlier this year and met with the presidential candidates, there was a lot of hope and promise. Now Morsi needs to deliver on the promise of being a president for all Egyptians."
The task force was established with the aim of creating a strong political and economic partnership between the EU and Egypt.
In a statement, Ashton said the EU aims to support the growth of jobs, investment and social development for the Egyptian people.
With the region seeing so much political instability and strife in recent times, most notably in Syria, the EU is keen for Egypt to be a role model of democracy in the Arab region.
Karim, who has been vocal in his criticism of the Syrian president, has welcomed Ashton's initiative to establish the task force.
He said, "When Mohamed Morsi was elected, Ashton promised she would be one of the first to engage with the new president and his executive and I am pleased to see she has kept her word.
"The task force will be an important and historic vehicle to impart democratic, economic and technological know-how to the Egyptian people. I am confident that it will be the first step towards a flourishing partnership."
Meanwhile, Amnesty International has urged the task force to emphasise human rights during its various meetings in Cairo this week.
The charity says the dialogue "offers the EU a key opportunity to recast its relations with the Middle East and north Africa by placing greater emphasis on respect for human rights and the rule of law."
Nicolas Beger, director of Amnesty International's European institutions office, said, 'This is a prime opportunity for the EU to make human rights a priority in its relations with Egypt."
He said the task force, the first ever, should address "the many past and present human rights violations in Egypt".
To ensure a comprehensive strategy which meets Egypt's human rights obligations, Amnesty International has stressed the importance of devising a human rights strategy for Egypt which comprises participation by representatives of Egyptian civil society organisations, including independent human rights bodies.
Beger said it should also address alleged human rights concerns in Egypt including the continued detention of some 1100 civilians imprisoned following unfair military trials.
Provisions in the draft constitution which he said impose restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, including criticising religion and the political representation and equality of women should also be addressed this week.