EUROPEAN FOREIGN POLICY SCORECARD 2016

North Africa

42 - Egypt

Grade: C-
Unity 3/5
Resources 1/5
Strategy 2/5
Impact 1/5
Total 7/20
Scorecard 2013: B- (12/20)
Scorecard 2014: C+ (8/20)
Scorecard 2015: C (8/20)

While Egypt’s crackdown continued and its economic prospects weakened, the EU increasingly accepted the regime as a security partner

There was little change in Egypt’s political trajectory, but there was a shift in its relations with Europe, as diplomatic contacts with the regime increasingly returned to normal. While the EU remained notionally committed to Egypt’s transition to democracy, the priority of its largest member states was to bolster security and economic ties with the country.

Egyptian President Sisi visited Germany, Hungary, and the UK, while French President François Hollande attended the opening of a new channel in the Suez Canal, and many EU member states attended a high-profile development conference in Egypt. This growing engagement did not reflect any moderation in Sisi’s crackdown on political opponents and civil society. The government maintained its repressive stance, and the carefully timed amnesty for activists before Sisi’s visit to the UN General Assembly was followed by further arrests. 

EU policy on Egypt reflected the perceived value of the country’s regime as a security partner at a time of spreading regional conflict and growing terrorist threats to Europe. Yet Egypt under Sisi, while not in a full-blown crisis, is far from stable. The insurgency in Sinai continues unabated, led by a jihadist group that has declared its allegiance to ISIS, and terrorists showed they could strike in the tourist centre of Sharm el-Sheikh and in Cairo. Fringe elements of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement appeared to drift further towards violence.

European businesses were involved in major deals in Egypt’s energy sector and arms sales, while wider EU hopes of supporting economic renewal in the country appeared to weaken. Sisi’s faith in a few spectacular “mega-projects” was an inadequate substitute for a more complete economic vision that would provide jobs and improve living conditions. Long-delayed parliamentary elections finally took place, but the low turnout of 28 percent reflected scepticism about prospects for meaningful change. Egypt shows little sign of positive progress, and European policy does not extend beyond a reactive acceptance of the status quo.