Egypt is slowly working on becoming a fully-fledged democracy after the Arab spring caused Hosni Mubarak's 30-year regime to crumble last year. The EU has been keen to help the process in any way possible. We spoke to James Moran, the new EU head of delegation to Egypt, about the challenges facing Egypt and the role the EU should play.
Mr Moran appeared before the EP's Foreign Affairs Committee on Monday afternoon to talk about the task at hand. He emphasised it would be necessary to overcome preconceptions in order to develop a real partnership with Egypt. "Whether it be us treating them as aid beneficiaries or them treating us as a meddler in their internal affairs - we need to get away from this sort of mentality."
The former acting head of the EU's delegation to Libya called the current situation in Egypt "complex, moving and dynamic, but one that still holds promise". He added: "There has been an election, the best election in modern times in Egypt. I know we were not there - neither the European Union nor the international community - to observe, but by all accounts, although it was not perfect, it went very, very well and the results are basically credible. It has produced a result that isn't to the liking of everyone but that is the nature of democracy." Mr Moran said the task is now "to engage with all players" in the emerging new world of Egyptian politics, although he pointed out that there are still issues that will need to be addressed such as human rights, the role of the military and the economic and the social situation in the country.
Mr Moran said last year's uprising had led to a lot of expectations and frustrations in both Egypt and the international community at large. "The fact of the matter is that it takes quite a bit of time to achieve a transition like this and when you imagine that for sixty years the type of politics, the type of government that Egypt had was very different from what they now aspire to, I think you need to have a certain amount of patience as they work it out as they are going forward." Patience is also what the EU will require when dealing with Egypt. "One of the problems is we don't yet know with whom we are engaging in the long term and we won't know for some months ahead."
But it is clear that the EU has an important role to play, he said. "The EU is the largest trading partner of Egypt and the biggest provider of assistance. We have the strongest interest in working with them and in supporting stability and democracy in the country."