EUROPEAN FOREIGN POLICY SCORECARD 2015

North Africa

36 - Egypt

Grade: C
Unity 3/5
Resources 2/5
Outcome 3/10
Total 8/20
Scorecard 2013: B- (12/20)
Scorecard 2014: C+ (8/20)

This year saw the effective consolidation of a repressive political regime in Egypt, leaving the EU struggling to find a coherent and meaningful response.

After seizing power the previous summer, Egypt’s new leadership attempted in 2014 to “normalise” its hold on the country. A new constitution was endorsed in January, and in May, former military leader Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi was elected president by a landslide. Since then,Sisi’s regime has cracked down ruthlessly on political opponents and critical voices. Thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members and other protestors have been imprisoned after inadequate trials. The state has tightened its control over civil society and journalists have been convicted and/or imprisoned without any evidence of criminal activity.

 The government has been unable to control an escalation of anti-state violence in Sinai and regular terrorist incidents have occurred elsewhere. Protests have continued in universities, but otherwise Sisi appears to have had success in establishing his authority by suppressing opposition. The public has accepted some painful economic reforms with little protest and there are signs of a modest economic revival. But Egypt remains financially dependent on subsidies from the Gulf and no convincing long-term development plan has been made. In foreign policy, Sisi has tried to present Egypt as a regional force for stability and counter-extremism, facilitating talks on Gaza and joining the anti-ISIS coalition. Nevertheless, Egypt has not re-emerged as a key regional diplomatic player and has indulged in a problematic intervention in Libya.

The European Parliament agreed a tough resolution on Egypt in February. But, facing an uncompromising stance from Egypt’s leadership and a strongly nationalist public mood, European countries have softened their critical line. The EU’s observation mission for the presidential election was poorly handled, with the EU admitting that it did not deliver on its mandate in full and Egyptian media claiming EU endorsement for a flawed process. At the end of 2014, Sisi’s visit to Italy and France suggested some member states are prepared to soft-pedal criticism of Egypt. Other European countries remain more critical, but have little idea of how to influence Egypt beyond waiting for the country’s public mood to change again.