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MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION
PDF 143kWORD 70k
3.7.2013
PE515.905v01-00
 
B7-0361/2013

with request for inclusion in the agenda for a debate on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law

pursuant to Rule 122 of the Rules of Procedure


on the situation of civil society in Egypt (2013/2692(RSP))


Véronique De Keyser, Liisa Jaakonsaari, Ana Gomes, Joanna Senyszyn, Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg, Mitro Repo, Pino Arlacchi, Marc Tarabella, Norbert Neuser, Antigoni Papadopoulou, Emine Bozkurt, María Muñiz De Urquiza, Raimon Obiols on behalf of the S&D Group
NB: This motion for a resolution is available in the original language only.

European Parliament resolution on the situation of civil society in Egypt (2013/2692(RSP))  
B7‑0361/2013

The European Parliament,

-  having regard to its previous resolutions on Egypt, in particular that of 14 March 2013 on the situation in Egypt,

 

-  having regard to the statement of European Parliament President Martin Schulz on the conviction of 43 NGO workers in Egypt of 6 June 2013,

 

-  having regard to the joint statement by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and Commissioner Štefan Füle on the Egyptian NGO trial verdicts of 5 June 2013,

 

-  having regard to the statement by the spokesperson of High Representative Catherine Ashton on the new NGO law in Egypt of 2 June 2013,

 

-  having regard to the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement establishing an association between the European Communities and their member states, of the one part, and the Arab Republic of Egypt, of the other part, of 2001, which entered into force in 2004,

 

-  having regard to the co-chairs conclusions of the EU-Egypt Task Force meeting of 14 November 2012, and its annex 5 on the Civil Society Roundtable,

 

-  having regard to the special report of the European Court of Auditors on „EU cooperation with Egypt in the field of governance” of 18 June 2013,

 

-  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948,

 

-  having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, to which Egypt is a party,

 

-  having regard to International Labour Organisation conventions, in particular ILO conventions 87 and 98,

 

-  having regard to Rule 122 of its Rules of Procedure,

 

A.  whereas Egypt is in a critical period of transition towards democracy; whereas civil society has a crucial role to play in this transition; whereas, however, international and Egyptian NGOs face mounting pressure, hostile attacks, harassment and intimidation in the country;

 

B.  whereas, on 4 June 2013, a Cairo criminal court convicted 43 foreign and Egyptian NGO workers from one to five years in prison for managing unregistered NGO branches, conducting research, political training, surveys and workshops without licenses, training political parties and groups, and receiving illegal foreign funding; whereas the court also ordered the closure and the confiscation of assets of local branches of five international NGOs which had been operating in Egypt for a long time, namely the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, Freedom House, and the International Centre For Journalists;

 

C.  whereas these court sentences are part of a campaign of intimidation by government authorities against international and domestic NGOs in Egypt; whereas this continued persecution of NGOs is a severe breach of the stated commitment of President Morsi and the Egyptian government to democratic values;

 

D.  whereas the functioning and activities of NGOs is still regulated by Law 84/2002, adopted under the regime of former President Mubarak, in Egypt; whereas this law continues being used to impose severe restrictions on civil society;

 

E.   whereas raids on NGO offices and court sentences against NGO workers are clear indications of an urgent need to adopt a new law and regulations protecting and encouraging civil society activities in Egypt; whereas these should be drafted in full cooperation with Egyptian civil society actors, must fully comply with Egypt’s international commitments and obligations, and should follow international standards;

 

F.   whereas on 29 May 2013 President Morsi sent a new draft law on NGOs to the Shoura Council; whereas this text has provoked widespread criticism among international and Egyptian NGOs claiming that, if adopted in its current shape, this law would further strengthen and institutionalise state control over civil society by giving excessive powers to the government; whereas this new draft law is particularly restrictive regarding the activities of international NGOs; Egyptian government officials claim that tighter restrictions on foreign funding to NGOs in Egypt are necessary for security reasons and for fighting against money-laundering;

 

G.  whereas Egyptian authorities are conducting high-level consultations with the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe in order to achieve that the new law on NGOs is in compliance with international conventions and norms; whereas the EU, in a spirit of true partnership, has engaged with the government of Egypt to provide technical advice in this context;

 

H.  whereas independent trade unions have a crucial role to play in the field of labour relations and beyond in this critical period of political, economic and social transition in Egypt; whereas the widespread violations by the Egyptian government of International Labour Organisation conventions have a serious impact on exercising trade union rights and on industrial relations in general in the country; whereas the new constitution and decrees issued in 2012 have further aggravated obstacles independent trade unions have to face in Egypt;

 

I.     whereas article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a party, declares that „everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests” and that „nothing in this article shall authorize States Parties to the International Labour Organisation Convention of 1948 concerning freedom of association and protection of the right to organize1 to take legislative measures which would prejudice, or to apply the law in such a manner as to prejudice, the guarantees provided for in that Convention”;

 

J.     whereas the functioning and activities of trade unions is still regulated by Law 35/1976 in Egypt; whereas, while it recognises the right of trade unions to be established and to operate freely, article 53 of the new constitution allows only one trade union per profession, which undermines the existence of independent trade unions; whereas the Penal Code imposes further restrictions on labour rights, also by denying the right to strike to all workers performing public service or working in a public utility;

 

K.  whereas, in lack of explicit legal basis for the establishment of independent trade unions in Egypt, and of legal protection therefore, their leaders and members are often fired, harassed or intimidated by employers; whereas this situation largely contributes to the current crisis of industrial relations in the country, to the benefit of none of the social partners;

 

L.   whereas mounting political tensions continue further deepening internal polarisation within Egyptian society, leading to continued street protests and violent clashes, and creating new divisions including on the basis of religious affiliation; whereas women are in a particularly vulnerable situation in the current period of transition in Egyptian society;

 

M. whereas partnership with societies, an incentives-based approach and the principle of “more for more”, and eventually “less for less”, are cornerstones of the EU’s reviewed European Neighbourhood Policy; whereas article 2 of the EU-Egypt Association Agreement declares that “relations between the Parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself, shall be based on respect of democratic principles and fundamental human rights as set out in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement”;

 

N. whereas a recent special report by the European Court of Auditors on “EU cooperation with Egypt in the field of governance” claims that little progress has been achieved by EU interventions in support of democracy and human rights over the past years in the country, the main human rights programme has been largely unsuccessful, due also to a negative attitude by Egyptian authorities, funds channelled through NGOs have not been sufficient to make a discernible difference, and no new major initiatives have been taken following the revolution to tackle key human rights issues, while the measures taken have had little impact;

 

1.  Expresses its solidarity with and full support to international and domestic NGOs that contribute to building deep and sustainable democracy in Egypt based on the rule of law and on respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms;

 

2.  Expresses its deepest concern about the recent Cairo court rulings that sentenced 43 foreign and Egyptian NGO workers up to five years in prison for civil society activities and ordered the closure and confiscation of assets of local branches of five international NGOs;

 

3.  Calls on the Egyptian government and authorities to fully respect the freedoms of association and of expression, and to put an immediate end to all forms of restrictions, harassment and intimidation against international and domestic NGOs in the country, in order that these NGOs can function and operate freely; calls, in particular, for dropping all criminal charges against NGO workers and avoiding the criminalisation of NGO activities by using judicial procedures as a political tool against them;

 

4.  Expresses its deepest concern about the new draft law on NGOs sent by President Morsi to the Shoura Council on 29 May 2013, as the adoption of this law, in its current shape, would be another step towards increased government control and repression of international and domestic NGOs in Egypt; reminds that any new law or regulation on NGOs must fully comply with the country’s international commitments and obligations, and should follow international standards;

 

5.  Urges the Egyptian government to support the emergence of independent, free and vivid civil society in the country, which is essential to deep and sustainable democracy, by proposing a new draft law on NGOs to be elaborated in full cooperation with Egyptian civil society actors, by abolishing political and administrative obstacles to NGO registration, and by facilitating access for NGOs to foreign and domestic funding; is of the opinion that such a new law should be adopted by the new parliament to be democratically elected at free and fair elections;

 

6.  Takes note of the ongoing consultations between Egyptian authorities and the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe in the context of adopting a new law on NGOs in Egypt; encourages the High Representative/Vice President, the European External Action Service and the European Commission to continue their cooperation with Egyptian authorities in order that any new law or regulation on NGOs to be adopted in Egypt fully complies with the country’s international commitments and obligations, and follows international standards;

 

7.  Calls on the Egyptian government to put an immediate end to all forms of repression, discrimination and harassment against independent trade unions in the country; calls for abolishing the limitation to one trade union per profession in article 53 of the new constitution and for ensuring full compliance of Egyptian labour and trade union legislation with relevant ILO conventions; calls also for adopting, with genuine participation of trade unions, a new law on trade unions in Egypt, which would guarantee that they can function and operate without government interference;

 

8.  Urges the EU and its Member States to continue providing substantial financial support and technical assistance to Egyptian NGOs and to work together with them to strengthen civil society awareness, the culture of civil action and civil society activities in this country, which are crucial elements of deep and sustainable democracy;

 

9.  Urges the High/Representative/Vice President, the European External Action Service and the European Commission to address the subject of the situation of civil society and trade unions in Egypt on all levels of the EU’s dialogue with the Egyptian government, and to develop the “more for more” principle - with a particular focus on civil society, women’s rights and minority rights - in a more coherent and practical way, including clear conditions and benchmarks, without creating a negative effect on the living conditions of the Egyptian population; calls also for action towards more transparency and accountability concerning the way EU funding is spent in Egypt, with special regard to projects fostering civil society and protecting minorities and women's rights; reminds that the lack of major progress regarding respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, democratic governance and the rule of law in Egypt may lead to suspension of EU budgetary support to the Egyptian government;

 

10.  Takes note of the findings of the special report by the European Court of Auditors on „EU cooperation with Egypt in the field of governance” of 18 June 2013 and calls on its Committee on Budgetary Control to ensure appropriate follow-up to this report in the European Parliament;

 

11.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the High Representative/Vice President, the parliaments and governments of the Member States, the parliament and government of Egypt, and the International Labour Organisation.

 

 

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