“If Germany appears to offer el-Sisi uncritical endorsement, it would only encourage him to persist on a path that will not fulfil the Egyptian people’s aspirations or promote European interests over the longer term.” – European Council on Foreign Relations
Angela Merkel’s recent visit to Egypt is making headlines for the wrong reasons, even though it was paved with good intentions. The German chancellor who visited North Africa to expand trade and investment ties, and also to discuss ways to reduce the flow of migrants into Europe, faced public backlash for what many describe as a subservient behaviour towards Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Not only did Merkel fail to address the issue of widespread human rights violations in Egypt, she said in an interview that Coptic Christians in Egypt are living peacefully and in very good conditions. A statement that is very far from the truth. “What does the chancellor want to accomplish with such genuflection,” Joachim Schroedel, a German cleric who has worked in Egypt for over two decades, asked the German foremost newspaper, Bild.
Egyptian Coptic Christians who make up 10 percent of the country’s population, have endured years of persecution and terrorism. The most recent being the December bombing of the St Mark Cathedral, which left a score of people dead. Knowing this, it is absolutely absurd for Merkel to have made such a statement. Especially as part of the reason for the increased migration of Egyptians to Europe is as a result of the ongoing crisis in Egypt’s North Sinai. A crisis that has seen many Christian families flee their communities.
Merkel’s fawning was so disappointing that it prompted the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) to write an open letter condemning her endorsement of Sisi’s government. “Uncritical engagement with Egypt is not realpolitik: it is not based on a realistic assessment of the dangerous mixture of repression and non-inclusive governance that currently prevails,” the letter reads.
Like his predecessors, President el-Sisi’s government is infamous for condoning human rights violations, including illegal arrests, torturing of activists, and gagging of the press. For one who swore to uphold judicial independence, freedom of expression, and the rule of law, his administration is rather a disappointment. Egyptian activists have said that they are suffering the worst assault in their history under el-Sisi.
As reported by Reuters, Amnesty International also urged Merkel to press Sisi to revoke restrictions on human rights activists. “Civil society, media and the political opposition are suffering increasingly under state repression, which often takes place under the pretext of the so-called fight against terrorism,” an Egypt expert at Amnesty international said.
Hopefully, Merkel who is currently seeking a fourth term in office, will do the right thing and engage with Egypt as a plural and vital country, and not just with its regime, as the ECFR has advised.