NGOs Urge for Strong Human Rights Commitments in EU-Egypt Action Plan

In Euro-Mediterranean Partnership by

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIRP), in collaboration with the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN), organized a joint mission to a number of European Union (EU) institutions in Brussels from 20-22 of March.
The delegation, comprised of Hossam Bahgat, Director of the EIPR, and Moataz El-Fegiery, Programs Coordinator of the CIHRS, emphasized the need for the inclusion of concrete, measurable and time-bound commitments in the human rights chapter of the EU-Egypt Action Plan, on which both sides are meeting in Cairo this week for another round of negotiations. They highlighted issues of concern with regards to the human rights situation in the country, such as the state of emergency and a possible anti-terror legislation, judicial independence, torture and pre-trial detention, freedom of religion and belief, the right to association, freedom of the media, women’s rights, election monitoring and the death penalty.
The delegation urged the EU and the Egyptian government to include in the Action Plan the creation of a specific Sub-Committee on Human Rights within the framework of the EU-Egypt Association Agreement and to establish an efficient monitoring mechanism of the Action Plan once adopted. The delegation also asked for a strong and systematic involvement of civil society organizations in the implementation and monitoring phases.
The delegation also presented the conclusions and recommendations of a seminar co-organized in Cairo last January by the EMHRN and the CIHRS on the ‘European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP): Human Rights in EU-Egypt Relations’, with participants from civil society organizations in Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Lebanon, Palestine, Ukraine, France and Belgium, as well as representatives of EU member states and the European Commission. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry declined an invitation to participate in the seminar.
The three-day mission included a meeting attended by representatives from seventeen EU Member States as well as meetings with Michael Matthiessen, Jafier Solana’s Personal Representative for Human Rights, and officials from the European Commission. The two defenders also addressed a joint meeting of the European Parliament&#146s Human Rights Sub-Committee and members of the Parliament&#146s Mashrek Delegation attended by the Chairpersons of both groups and a number of Members of the European Parliament (EP), including Mr. Edward McMillan Scott, Vice President of the EP and coordinator of its relations with Mediterranean countries who organized a mission last November to observe the first round of Egypt&#146s latest parliamentary elections.
Since September 2005 three rounds of negotiations of the Egypt Action Plan have taken place in Cairo and Brussels. The fourth round is scheduled to take place in Cairo on 29-30 March. Both sides are aiming to conclude the negotiations before the meeting of the EU-Egyptian Association Council, scheduled to take place next June. The Action Plan includes commitments of both sides in areas of political, economic and cultural cooperation in exchange for trade and economic benefits offered to Egypt.

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