Bernardino Leon said on Thursday that the National Salvation Front’s decision to boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections is “damaging to the political transition” in the view of the EU.
Leon, the EU Special Envoy for the Southern Mediterranean Region was speaking in Cairo about the EU’s involvement in the political dialogue, following up on the EU-Egypt Association Committee and financial support to Egypt.
Talking about the on-going political dialogue in Egypt, Leon confirmed that the EU has been in contact with various political actors in Egypt. These include the government, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Freedom and Justice Party, representatives of the NSF as well as civil society representatives.
Leon described the current situation in Egypt as “difficult” and highlighted the NSF decision to boycott the elections. He asserted that now it is important to explore ways to reverse this decision. Leon said he believes this is possible by building trust between the political actors in Egypt and called on both sides to review each other’s proposals and to find common ground for all parties to be able to participate. He added, “I insist it is not easy, but I also insist it could be done.”
He added that he thought the response to the current situation from both sides is not good, and that “both sides should work creatively, and work on their proposals… and should see how it is possible to reach an agreement.”
Leon said that it is “extremely important to end violence in the street.” He said that achieving calm in the streets would help facilitate a political solution to Egypt’s problems, and called on Egyptians to be patient.
Leon said political dialogue is an incorrect description of the current situation, he said it was more like “an on-going exchange of views between both sides.” He asserted that this exchange of views must be upgraded into an actual dialogue in the context of building trust. He said that for the transition to democracy in Egypt to be successful it would take more than just elections.
Speaking about the EU-Egypt Association Committee, Leon reiterated the EU’s commitment to “be the most important partner for Egypt in the transition.” He referred to the EU-Egypt taskforce set up in November as an initiative to encourage European investment in Egypt. He confirmed that a meeting was set to take place on Thursday. Leon described the present situation as a difficult time for Egypt, both politically and economically.
Leon highlighted the importance of Egypt’s financial situation. He said that international support is needed. He said the International Monetary Fund is working on providing support as well as other important international actors, such as the United States and Gulf countries.
He welcomed the government’s announcement of a new economic programme saying that this is “an important step” for Egypt. Leon said that he is in regular contact with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton to discuss Egypt’s transition. “We encourage, the government, NSF, Al-Nour party, and civil society representatives to keep working for the sake of this country and the transition.”