Gulf News | 06/15/2006
EU and Egypt fail to unblock association deal
Cairo: Egypt and the European Union failed to wrap up a "neighbourhood action plan" because of differences over human rights in Egypt and nuclear weapons in the Middle East, an EU official said yesterday.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Aboul Gaith led an Egyptian delegation to the one day of talks on Tuesday in Luxembourg with EU Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner. They were the first such talks at this level in two years.
The European Union had hoped the talks would lead to political agreement on a document laying out how to implement an association agreement with Egypt which came into force in 2004, said the EU ambassador in Cairo, Klaus Ebermann.
Agreement on the action plan would enable Egypt and the European Union to make progress on a wide range of joint projects, including freer trade and possibly more aid.
"We had hoped it would be possible to unblock a stalemate which is lasting now for two years ... This still is not finally solved," he said.
The sticking points were how the joint institutions in the association agreement should deal with human rights issues and what the agreement should say on nuclear weapons, he added.
Human rights groups say the Egyptian government has a poor record. Thousands of people are in detention without trial and torture and police brutality are widespread, they say.
The independent Cairo newspaper Nahdet Misr yesterday said that Aboul Gaith told the European side that political change in Egypt must stem from Egyptian concepts and that his government would not accept political conditions.
Ebermann said Egypt had wanted to include a reference to its position that the Middle East should be free of nuclear arms a tacit demand that the EU tackle Israel’s nuclear programme.
A European diplomat said the European Union was resisting this language. "In a bilateral text with Egypt, the Europeans are not going to address the possibility of Israeli nuclear armaments," said the diplomat.
Ebermann said: "The Egyptian side took note with interest and said they cannot engage without having beforehand consulted with the prime minister (Ahmad Nadeef)."