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Pascal Boniface on the threat to European credibility over Egypt


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Pascal Boniface on the threat to European credibility over Egypt

Egypt is enduring the worst internal strife in its modern history. The turmoil has polarised the country and alarmed the international community.

Since August 14, nearly 900 people have been killed in Egypt, mostly civilian supporters of ousted president Mohamed Mursi. There has been an all-out repression of the Muslim Brotherhood. The interim government has detained the Brotherhood’s supreme leader, signalling its determination to crush the group and silence protests.

Meanwhile, the international community looks at how it might apply its influence for a peaceful compromise.

euronews spoke with Pascal Boniface, director of the Institute for International and Strategic Relations (IRIS), a French international relations organisation about the next phase.

euronews began by asking: “It seems that in Egypt there is no more room for mediation, or a reconciliation. Might that drive the Islamists underground, and threaten a return to the dark years of the 1990s?”

Pascal Boniface replied: “It’s obviously, a big step back. We’re afraid that if the Muslim Brotherhood is driven underground then we’ll be back in the Mubarak Era without Mubarak.

“Of course the Muslim Brotherhood will eventually be banned from political expression. Every time that’s already happened, a small part of them became radicalised. And now that we’ve started integrating them into the political system we can fight them in the ballot box.

“They would have already been contested: their programme reveals their limitations and reveals that there’s obviously an economical and social failure with the Muslim Brotherhood. So the ouster and the bloody repression that followed it will wind Egypt back many years.”

euronews: “Has the international community – the United States and the European Union – got anything to reproach itself for over the course of events after the overthrow in July?”

Pascal Boniface: “No, Europe could have achieved an excellent diplomatic solution through mediation, however it didn’t work out.

“It was, of course, discontent inside the Muslim Brotherhood and the refusal of the Army that finally prevented successful negotiations. But Europe was so close to a solution. It would have been a huge success for European diplomacy, a success which we’ve been waiting a long time for.

“In relation to the massacres, perhaps the reactions were too moderate. There were condemnations, but…if we had seen this same level of repression against demonstrators in Cuba, Russia or China, the reactions from western media and western politics would have been a lot stronger. Another example of how geopolitical interests are more important than principals.”

euronews: “Beneath all of this there’s a diplomatic struggle going on between several regional players: Saudi Arabia and the UAE on one side, Qatar and Turkey on the other. Is there a risk that the West will lose all influence in Egypt?”

Pascal Boniface: “It will lose influence if it doesn’t respect its principles. Not necessarily in light of current events, but in the long term. Europe will lose credibility if it changes its opinions on a whim.

“There’s a fight with Qatar and Turkey on one side and the UAE on the other… well, there are other places in the world where opposition forces try to impose their interests and the idea they have of their interests.

“But as Europeans, we can not just decide like that. We can not advocate democracy while cheering but not condemning a coup. We can’t say that human rights are the epicentre of European politics when, at the same time, nothing happens when there are several thousands deaths.”

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