Tomorrow, an Egyptian court is expected to hand down a verdict to Hosni Mubarak, former Egyptian President, on charges of corruption and the premediated killing of peaceful protestors (a charge which carries the death penalty). Mubarak was toppled from power in 2011 by a popular revolution, becoming the second North African leader forced from office in the Arab Spring after Tunisian President Ben Ali. The verdict will come ahead of Egypt’s Presidential run-off elections on the 16th and 17th of June between Mubarak’s former Prime Minister, Ahmed Shafik, and Mohamed Morsi, the unofficial candidate of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.
Yesterday, Debating Europe spoke to Mohamed ElBaradei after he received Friends of Europe’s inaugaral ‘Prize for Statesmanship’ in Brussels. Dr. ElBaradei is the former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and was a key figure in the 2011 Egyptian revolution, where he headed the Egyptian National Coalition for Change and helped negotiate the formation of a transitional unity government. We asked him about some of the challenges facing Egypt, and he responded with cautious optimism:
However, during his address, Dr. ElBaradei also cautioned that Egyptians still remembered the support that European countries had previously given to the Mubarak regime. He highlighted the importance of rebuilding trust between Egypt and Europe as Egypt makes the transition to democraacy. Yet with the EU sovereign debt and banking crisis taking up so much attention right now, is Europe responding properly to the momentous changes taking place along its borders?
Egypt is not even the most alarming case. There may be room for cautious optimism in some countries, but events in others are rapidly spinning out of control. British Foreign Secretary William Hague recently described Syria as being “on the edge of an all-out civil war.” How should Europe respond? Christos sent in a comment arguing that further diplomacy was the only credible option: “We cannot just watch, but we cannot interfere too much either. We must support the civilians, but I am not in favor of military action anywhere… Aid and sanctions are my ideal ways of intervention.”
We spoke to Dr. Rainer Stinner, a member of the German Bundestag and Foreign policy spokesman for the liberal centre-right Free Democratic Party (FDP), and asked him to respond to Christos’ comment:
I totally agree with this comment. A military intervention would not be appropriate. You cannot compare Libya to Syria, and I totally agree there should be no military intervention in the latter. I am in favour of the initiative of Kofi Annan, which asks both sides for a ceasefire.
Political influence and diplomacy will be vital. If the whole world sticks together, including Russia, China and the Middle East, it will have some influence on the Assad regime. He will see that he is totally isolated and has to come to a compromise. The important thing is to prevent any more killings and open the way for new alternatives and systems.
What do YOU think? Given recent events in Syria, including accusations of massacres by government forces, is diplomacy still a viable option? And can Europe start rebuilding trust and supporting post-revolutionary countries in their transition to democracy? Do you think Europe has responded well to the Arab Spring so far? Or has it been too destracted by the crisis within its own borders? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers for their reactions.