José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Mr Mohamed Morsi, President of Egypt
13 September 2012
Good morning ladies and gentlemen,
It is indeed a great pleasure to welcome President Morsi of Egypt to Brussels and to the European Commission today.
First of all I would like to apologise for the delay in the beginning of this press conference but the conversation was really interesting, dense, deep, and occurred in a very friendly atmosphere.
I had the opportunity to personally congratulate President Morsi on his election – the first democratically elected Egyptian President – and to commend his choice to visit Brussels in his first trip to Europe.
Mr President, we see this choice as a clear message from the new Egypt regarding its future and as a testimony of the country's engagement with Europe and European partners.
From our side I want to state clearly that Egypt can count on the EU; Egypt can count on the European Commission, on the European institutions and European Member States.
I reiterated to President Morsi our commitment to work with Egypt's democratically elected authorities to build a democratic, free, open, prosperous Egypt that continues to respond to the aspirations of all of those that for instance assembled in Tahrir Square and around the country last year.
I remember vividly visiting Tahrir Square in my trip to Egypt in July last year – the energy, determination and hope that I expressed in Cairo by young people all over the country. If I may make a personal remark, it reminds me of what I experienced in my country, in Portugal, in the 70's when we had the fall of dictatorship and the openness of a new democratic regime. From personal and political experience, I know that transitions to and consolidation of democracy are very challenging moments in the life of a nation. That is why we stand ready to support Egypt and its people to seize the opportunities ahead and build a better future.
We are extremely pleased with the reassurances given today by President Morsi regarding Egypt's unwavering commitment to Democracy and the Rule of Law and to the defence of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms for all Egyptian's irrespective of their gender or creed, the dignity of each human being. We have discussed this in very open terms with President Morsi, and I believe in his sincerity about that principle of human dignity and respect for every human life. And we have agreed upon it. In fact the respect for minorities, women's rights, and inter-faith dialogue are essential for the future and stability of the country.
The constituent Assembly is now working hard to conclude a new Constitution, which we hope will set the framework for a vigorous and dynamic democracy. It is extremely important to achieve success in this transition. I offered to President Morsi our availability for a fully-fledged Election Observation Mission to monitor these elections if this is the wish of the Egyptian authorities.
We are fully aware of new Egypt's challenges. Egyptian people have high expectations for the democratic revolution to deliver socio-economic benefits in the short term – we have to say that these expectations and transitions are very difficult to fulfil. It requires lots of intelligence, patience and determination to give people the fulfilment of their expectations.
But we are willing to contribute, and the EU has made available €449 Million to Egypt for the years 2011-2013 to support several sectors in the country. To give a concrete example this year the EU will disburse €130 Million for projects related with job creation, youth employability, and technical and vocational training. We want Egyptian youth to succeed!
We are willing to do much more, we have discussed this with President Morsi: we are ready to offer Macro Financial Assistance worth €500 Million provided that the agreement that Egypt is currently negotiating with the IMF materialises. This agreement is an agreement that we strongly support.
In addition, the EU is also ready to consider a budget support operation of €150-200 Million in support of an agreed Economic Recovery Plan.
Today I am happy to announce with President Morsi that we are now going to put in place a Task Force, EU-Egypt Task Force involving EU Institutions, our Member States and other international financial institutions. We are ready to hold this Task Force on 14/15 November. I am convinced that we can use this event as a catalyst for EU collective support, and also to restore investors' confidence in Egypt because sometimes we believe the image that appears outside of Egypt might not be is not in fact the right image: we believe there is stability in Egypt and that there should be confidence in the future of this country.
Furthermore, in the framework of our policy to the Southern Mediterranean, we are ready to start preparations for future negotiations of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with Egypt.
We are also trying to develop our trade relations. In fact despite all these transitions our trade relations have been increasing, the EU is already Egypt's first trading partner and the main source of Foreign Direct Investment, but there is still a great potential to explore and we believe it can be done for the benefit of our citizens.
And indeed, our focus should be our citizens. In this respect, I reaffirmed to President Morsi our willingness to initiate a dialogue towards a Mobility Partnership with Egypt and I called for the resumption of our sectoral dialogues from trade to education, to human rights, to scientific cooperation, which have been conducted based on our 2004 Association Agreement.
So, Egypt is indeed an indispensable partner for the promotion of peace and stability in the region and in the Arab World.
I congratulated President Morsi’s recent declarations on Syria and his wish to become more involved in the resolution of this crisis. We are also adamant that Assad should go, there is no more room for Assad in Syria. A President that kills his own people simply does not deserve to be President of a country. This is not acceptable. This is simply not acceptable and we need transition to inclusive democracy. and that we need to see a political transition to inclusive democracy.
Our priorities now to stop the bloodshed and to allow unhindered humanitarian access to those in need. We believe the Syrian people have suffered enough and all international actors, all international actors, must assume their responsibilities to end the atrocities. Syrian people and the Arab people, we can say, after the discussion we had with President Morsi, as well as European people simply cannot understand how there are countries still supporting what is happening in the dictatorship in Syria.
That is why we are fully backing the efforts of the United Nations and of the UN/League of Arab States envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi.
We also had the opportunity to mention the important role of Egypt in the Middle East Peace Process. I think it is so important that these changes in the Arab world are successful and the case of Egypt, because of the importance of this country is indeed determining for the way the Arab world can succeed in its message of peace and commitment to democracy. To conclude, let me congratulate the President once more for his election and leadership and reiterate our steadfast commitment to democracy.
But before I conclude, let me use this opportunity – because it is the first time I appear to you after we received those news – let me condemn in the most clear terms the attacks on the United States diplomatic installation that have caused the death of four people in Benghazi, namely the American Ambassador. There can be no justification for violence and for the loss of innocent lives. We call on the Lybian authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure such events not reoccur and of course to protect the diplomatic missions. I also know very firm position taken by President Morsi on this matter.
At the same time, let me also recall that European Union consistently condemn those use of religion to fuel extremism. I have the deepest respect for Islam and for all religious beliefs. It is not acceptable the kind of attacks we have been seeing against Islam or any other religion. Freedom of expression should not be confounded with the propagation of hate, of intolerance or of prejudice. And I want also to condemn on the strongest terms these manifestations of hate that sometimes we see against religions or against any other human beings. Having said this it is clear there is never a justification for killing innocent people.
I thank you very much for your attention.