As the political drama in Cairo continues to play itself out with uncertain outcome, unprecedented negotiations between the government and the opposition took place Sunday. As the situation is so fluid we spoke by phone to Portuguese MEP Mário David (EPP) who heads Parliament's delegation for relations with Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. We asked him for his assessment of the situation and the implications of developments both in Egypt and the wider Arab world.
President Mubarak remains in place but first negotiations between government and opposition took place Sunday in Egypt. Do you believe a peaceful democratic transition is possible?
Mário David: It's not a question of believing. I hope we can witness a democratic transition in Egypt. The role that Egypt plays in the area, the whole of history, the culture, the values that the population of Egypt stands for deserve to have democracy, deserve to have their problem solved in a democratic way. First, we hope that there is now a democratic transition and, second, that this democracy is not a path for another dictatorship of another kind, because as a matter of fact that there are no good or bad dictatorships - they are all bad.
What about the EU's position on the Egyptian crisis?
MD: I really regret that Europe is not very present. We've heard joint statements and statements by some of the European leaders. But honestly I don't understand. We have a new treaty, the treaty of Lisbon, we have for the first time the ground for a common and foreign policy. And then, with all these instruments, each capital continues to issue its own statement, each diplomatic service continues to do its own job as if nothing existed. Unfortunately we witness some leaders issuing statements and even more unfortunately coming from the most democratic and economically important countries of Europe. So I don't think this is the way that actually we should deal with European foreign policy and the new Foreign Service (The European External Action Service).
What will the EU do if there is a new regime in a few months?
MD: We can only act upon request, we can not impose anything but I think that if we are requested to (and I hope we will be), we should concentrate on helping develop democratic institutions because democracy does not grow out of the ground on its own. It takes generations, it takes a change of mentality, and it takes everyone to be responsible, to understand that each of our States is all of us together. I think that everything we can do to help in institutional democracy building should be one of our main targets but, once again, only if requested.
Do you think this crisis could change the geopolitical situation in the region?
MD: It certainly will and the fate of the Egyptian revolution will say which way it will go in other countries. I am convinced that in the end it will succeed and I think that if people stop being afraid and start realising that, after all, they're the owners of their own vote and that they should have a free choice, all the regimes in the area can change and I hope these changes are for the good.
I am in Israel at present (as part of a delegation of MEPs) and I heard a very interesting speech from President Perès, mentioning the main reasons for what happened in Egypt. There was no anti-American crisis, no anti-Israel shouting, it was people in shirts and jeans fighting for their rights, fighting against poverty.
I had a discussion with two Ministers from the Palestinian Authority and regardless of the big support they get from Egypt, they said they were extremely satisfied as democracy was finally prevailing in Egypt as well. I think we are witnessing a historic moment and if it goes in the right direction, if it doesn't change into a new theocratic dictatorship, it will be great for this part of the world and for the whole world.
The interview was conducted in English on 7 February.