April 9, 2008 Special Dispatch No. 1849

Egyptian Officials, Press Condemn E.U. Resolution Criticizing Human Rights Situation in Egypt: 'The Europeans Think They Are the Masters While All Others Are Slaves'

April 9, 2008
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 1849

The European Parliament resolution of January 17, 2008, condemning the human rights situation in Egypt, provoked harsh criticism in that country. Egyptian government officials called the resolution "groundless" and "arrogant," and rejected it as interference in Egypt's internal affairs. Scheduled meetings between Egyptian and European diplomats were cancelled, and the Egyptian parliament even threatened to cut off relations with the European Parliament. Articles on the subject in the Egyptian press mostly took a similar tone, condemning the resolution as unfounded and discriminatory. However, some criticized Egypt's reaction to the resolution, describing it as too belligerent and as detrimental to Egypt's interests.

The following are excerpts from some of the Egyptian responses to the resolution:

Mubarak: Egypt Will Take No Lessons on Human Rights from Anyone

Even before the resolution was passed, the Egyptian parliament threatened to sever diplomatic ties with the E.U. and with the Euro-Mediterranean Council if the draft resolution was approved. [1] Following its approval, the Egyptian Foreign Minister summoned the E.U. ambassadors to express the parliament's objections, and announced that it would boycott the political consultations between Egyptian and E.U. officials scheduled for January. [2] Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit rejected the resolution as "arrogant," and said that it reflected ignorance on the part of the European Parliament regarding the human rights situation in Egypt. [3]

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak reacted to the resolution in an interview with the Egyptian opposition weekly Al-Usbu': "The human rights situation in Egypt is being assessed by the Egyptians themselves, based on the developments that have taken place in [our country] in terms of freedom of expression and political, economic, and social rights. Egypt needs no lessons nor lectures from anyone. Each [country] must monitor its own human rights situation, and we reject this discriminatory policy [whereby some countries are criticized and others are not]. We will never agree to interference in our country's internal affairs, for Egypt is an independent and sovereign state... and it will not have anyone giving it lessons on human rights or on anything else...

"I say to anyone who wishes to harm Egypt, whether inside the country or abroad: Egypt is implementing its reform agenda in accordance with its own values and experience, and without [importing] anyone else's experience, or adopting an agenda that is at odds with its values, principles, and experience. Egypt has a free press and a National Human Rights Council. It has a developing civil society, [political] parties, a parliament, and a proper judicial system. All these [institutions] expose [human rights] violations, and [when they do,] we immediately move to correct the problem and to prosecute the offenders..." [4]

Al-Ahram Editorial: The European Master Permits Himself to Dictate Moral Standards to the Third World Countries

A January 19, 2008 editorial in the government daily Al-Ahram likewise condemned the resolution, accusing the Europeans of "colonialist" attitudes and of double standards:

"Some Europeans seem to be living in an obsolete, illusionary past, in which they are masters while all others are slaves. These Europeans think that colonialism is still alive, and that what the colonialist literature calls 'the white man's rule' will endure forever, though, in reality, colonialism ended long ago, never to return.

"Since these [Europeans] have locked themselves in the bat caves of the past, they consider it their right to impose their opinions and their patronage on the peoples of the third world - for they believe these peoples to be primitive and incapable [of governing themselves]. The European master allows himself... to dictate moral standards that these countries must follow. Naturally, he becomes very angry when these peoples say to him: 'No, white master! We have grown and matured, and we are capable of governing ourselves.'

"These are the thoughts that pass through our minds as we follow [the moves of] the European Parliament vis-à-vis Egypt. This parliament has passed a peculiar and worrying resolution, condemning what [the Europeans] call 'violations of human rights in Egypt.' [However, careful] examination of the E.U.'s position towards Egypt reveals a number of facts. First, this resolution is not binding, and was not supported by a European consensus or even by a majority - for only 52 out of the 795 [sic] parliament members voted in its favor. Who gave this minority the right to judge Egypt and condemn it?"

The European Parliament Ignores the Positive and Focuses on the Negative

"Second, the resolution focused on several [atypical] aspects of life in Egypt, without looking at the overall situation in Egypt today. Naturally, there are some negative phenomena, as is the case in all other countries, including the most advanced countries and the oldest democracies. But the [Egyptian] political reforms have also made many positive achievements. So why turn the spotlight on the negative rather than the positive? Isn't this [a deliberate move] intended to harm and malign [Egypt]?

"Third, the language of arrogance, supremacies, and paternalism is no longer accepted in the discourse among countries or between countries and international organizations - since such language is harmful rather than helpful, and does not achieve the required goals. All reasonable people in the international community know that moderate statements based on facts can most effectively [promote] reforms...

"Finally, those who follow this affair will notice several strange, puzzling, and ludicrous facts. For example, the European Parliament bases [its resolution] on one isolated and exaggerated incident, making it look as though all [Egyptian citizens] are subjected to torture and to [human rights] violations. At the same time, it ignores real and heinous violations that take place in prisons like Abu Ghuraib and Guantanamo. The Europeans also [like to complain] about the slow [implementation] of democratic reforms in certain countries, but ignore the daily violations [of human rights] and the wanton murder of dozens [of people] in Palestine, Iraq, and Somalia.

"This double standard has grave implications, since it erases the facts, [undermines] trust [between countries], and impedes reforms. [Egyptian] Parliament Chairman Dr. Fathi Srour has rightly pointed out that the European countries have plenty of human rights violations on their record. Should we begin [to expose human rights violations committed by the Western countries], or should each side tend to its own problems, since it knows best how to solve them?" [5]

Al-Ahram Columnist: Why Shouldn't Egypt Have a Clean Human Rights Record?

Along with the articles condemning the resolution, there were also some that criticized Egypt's reaction to it. Al-Ahram columnist Gamal Zayda wrote: "In terms of interests, is this sharp deterioration [of our relations] with the E.U. reasonable, and where is it leading us? Will it perhaps lead to a catastrophic clash in the foreseeable future? If the answer is yes, why did [the Egyptian Foreign Ministry] summon the 27 European ambassadors and express its protest in such harsh terms? Do we have the ability to continue this escalation indefinitely, [just] because we object to the content of the European Parliament's resolution?... Or perhaps we have already begun to withdraw [from our position], only 48 hours later. But if so, why did we make such a big fuss [in the first place]?

"We accept... that Israel had a part in pushing the European Parliament to pass this resolution. But what have we done [about it]? Will we continue to cry and whine about it, as we [whined] about AIPAC and the Israel lobby [when they pressured] the U.S. Congress [to freeze some of the U.S. aid to Egypt]?... What sort of solution has Egyptian diplomacy [adopted]?... Instead of having a clear position as a basis for its international [policy], it has been [merely] responding [to incidents] for years. Where is Egypt's important diplomatic role in the international arena?...

"Let's acknowledge that if [Egypt] does not take effective steps on the domestic front, in all spheres, its ambassadors worldwide will not be able to defend its [claims of] democracy, human rights, and [rule of] law... The European Parliament report did exaggerate regarding [Ayman Nour, former leader of the Al-Ghad opposition party], who is serving a prison sentence for [election] fraud. But what about the [general] human rights situation in Egypt? Why are we afraid of transparency? Why shouldn't Egypthave a clean human rights record?..." [6]

Escalation of Egypt-E.U. Tension Contravenes Egypt's Interests

Dr. Sa'id Al-Lawandi, a international relations expert who writes in several Egyptian papers, likewise criticized Egypt's handling of the crisis. He wrote in the opposition daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm that Egypt dealt with the European resolution wrongfully: "There is no doubt that Egypt overreacted to the European Parliament's position on its human rights situation, and [responded] immaturely, like a man who [in anger] cuts off the branch on which he is sitting...

"Egypt's threats to cancel meetings and negotiations [with European officials] only harm Egypt [itself], since [these steps] only isolate Egypt from the 27 E.U. countries... We must admit our numerous mistakes, which led, among other things, to the publication of this report...

"The European report was not written overnight, but required a lengthy [period] of monitoring, [data] collection, documentation, and review prior to its publication. This begs the question: Where was Egypt during [all this time]...? Why do we let these irritating reports cook over a long period of time, and do not intervene by submitting data, reports, and clarifications of our position - which would have inevitably changed the results?...

"The chairman of the Egyptian People's Council, Dr. Fathi Srour, served as president of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly for several years. What did he do [in this capacity to promote Egypt's interests]? Why didn't he build bridges and [establish] mutual trust with [other] parliaments? Dr. Srour managed the crisis just as he manages the People's Council sessions. It did not occur to him that oppression, shrill protest, and boycotting [are not effective measures] to take with the European countries, which are used to dialogue, negotiations, and democracy..." [7]


[1] Al-Ahram (Egypt), January 17, 2008.

[2] Al-Ahram (Egypt), January 20, 2008.

[3] Al-Ahram (Egypt), January 18, 2008.

[4] Al-Usbu' (Egypt), January 26, 2008.

[5] Al-Ahram (Egypt), January 19, 2008.

[6] Al-Ahram (Egypt), January 23, 2008.

[7] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), January 21, 2008.

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