Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Situation in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and Egypt

Delivered in Plenary - 12th October 2011

Mr President

Earlier this year the Egyptian army played a crucial role in forcing the resignation of President Mubarak, after refusing orders to shoot protestors – thus making Egypt’s move towards democracy far less bloody than the transition in Libya, where the pro-Gaddafi forces have proved resilient, requiring NATO intervention to tip the balance. We all hope in this House that Sirte falls soon to the Transitional National Council.

However, the most recent reports coming from Egypt of the deaths of dozens of Coptic Christians who were protesting peacefully and killed as a result of a brutal overreaction by the security forces, are shocking and need investigation.

There is concern both in Tunisia and in Egypt over the rise of hardline Salafist influences now, and therefore in my view the more moderate Islamist elements of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt need engaging with and need to be made to understand that they must pledge to respect international obligations made by Egypt on human rights if they are elected to power.

The brutal repression of the Syrian uprising by contrast has led tragically to 3 000 deaths so far, with President Assad sadly refusing to go and appealing to minorities such as his own set, the Alawites, and the Christians to resist the Sunni-led insurgency. The EU must now support the freezing of Syrian assets in Europe, ban oil imports and lean more on Russia and China in the Security Council for support with the hope of speeding up the Syrian National Council’s bid to topple the Ba’athist regime.

Yemen’s traditional alliance with the US against al-Qa’ida is laudable but the regime is authoritarian. Street protestors have called for UN aid in forcing Ali Abdullah Saleh from power now, but the ECR welcomes the fact that the cases of medics jailed in Bahrain for instance for treating injured protestors are now due to be reviewed, which will give some credibility to the Bahraini Monarchy’s quest for democracy.

The ECR calls on the EU to mobilise all available means to the Middle East and North African countries, including direct aid and loan finance for investment, but conditional on respect for human rights and democracy.

Lastly our political parties here in this House must share their experience in order to establish secular, democratic choices for the people of that region.