News / Middle East

    EU Worried About Egypt's Civil Society Proposals

    Protesters attack a police vehicle driving by an anti-government protest in Cairo, Feb. 22, 2013.Protesters attack a police vehicle driving by an anti-government protest in Cairo, Feb. 22, 2013.
    x
    Protesters attack a police vehicle driving by an anti-government protest in Cairo, Feb. 22, 2013.
    Protesters attack a police vehicle driving by an anti-government protest in Cairo, Feb. 22, 2013.
    Reuters
    The European Union's envoy to Cairo urged Egypt's Islamist-led authorities on Thursday not to rush through legislation on civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that could curb an embryonic democracy.

    Civil society was heavily restricted under Hosni Mubarak's rule, and many of those who overthrew him in 2011 are demanding guarantees of greater freedom for civic and political activity to help Egypt complete the transition to popular democracy that the Arab Spring seemed to promise.

    But rights activists say a bill backed by President Mohamed Morsi's allies in the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, is even more restrictive than the rules of the past.

    "There is a great deal of concern on all sides that the time that is needed might not be taken," said James Moran, head of the EU delegation in Cairo.

    "An essential part of what we consider to be deep democracy is a free, open, transparent civil society," he said. "And since civil society played such an important part in the revolution in this country... we think that this is something that is worth spending some real quality time on."

    Despite Mubarak's fall, restrictions on civil society have remained a source of friction with Western states that help to finance non-government organizations working on human rights and economic, social and political development.

    Last year, under the temporary rule of the army generals who assumed power from Mubarak, a probe into the work of international NGOs, some of them U.S.-based, sparked a crisis in ties between the United States and Egypt.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said this week the Obama administration had "real concerns about the direction that Egypt appears to be moving in," citing recent arrests, street violence and a "lack of inclusivity with respect to the opposition."

    The Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) last year put forward a civil society bill that was praised by human rights activists. But that chamber, which it controlled, was dissolved in June.

    New bill more restrictive

    The draft being discussed now in the new FJP-led parliament falls well short of activists' aspirations, requiring prior approval for many NGO activities and restricting their financing, the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights said in a statement.

    It also gives the security services a seat on a "coordination board" that would decide on matters related to foreign funding of international NGOs.

    The FJP says the bill remains under discussion and Essam El-Erian, deputy leader of the party, said it will meet the needs of society and give NGOs unfettered freedom.

    But Moran cited concerns about restrictions on foreign funding and on the freedom of association that is supposed to be guaranteed by a newly passed constitution.

    The procedure envisaged for securing prior approval of an NGO's activities "seems to many of us to go beyond the normal constraints within which these organizations would be operating," he said.

    The EU deputy chief of mission was among a group of Western ambassadors who met members of the upper house of parliament, or Shura Council, last month to discuss the NGO bill.

    After the session, the Dutch ambassador wrote a nine-point letter to the head of the Council's Human Development Committee summarizing what they saw as modern democracies' best practices for regulating civil society.

    "Underlying all of this essentially is one motivation on the part of the European Union: We want to see Egypt's democratic transition succeed," said Moran.

    "These changes in what we refer to as the Arab Spring, these positive changes, probably wouldn't have been possible without civil society," he added. "In many ways, those who have come to power now, after the revolutions, are those who previously were in some form of civil society."

    EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is due in Egypt on Sunday for talks with Morsi and opposition leaders in which freedom of expression and civil society are expected to figure prominently.

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games, Despite Woes

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora