The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) announced that it submitted a detailed commentary to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in December 2021 on its strategy for Egypt and the accompanying political assessment. The CIHRS indicated that although nearly a year has passed since the beginning of work on the strategy, it is still not clear whether the Bank will decide to change its approach towards Egypt.
The European Bank differs from other international development banks because of its political role, which obligates it to lend money to countries that are committed, or willing to commit, to implementing the principles of democracy and rule of law, the freedom and independence of civil society, and commitment to the separation of powers.
Despite the military control of the economy in Egypt, “a military dictatorship,” as CIHRS put it, the country has been the largest recipient of the bank’s loans in the past three years. “Over the past decade, Egypt has received more than eight billion euros in cumulative investments from the European Union, despite the clear and continuing deterioration of the human rights and rule of law situation,” said Leslie Piquemal, Senior EU Advocacy Representative at CIHRS. “It is not yet clear whether the bank will change its approach.”
Piquemal added that the bank’s assessment of the situation in Egypt should lead to a change in its approach, and put pressure on the Egyptian regime to ensure the implementation of meaningful reforms in terms of transparency, accountability and the rule of law. The bank must realize that ignoring its political role and its basic principles will push Egypt further towards instability and chaos, she added.
The draft strategy developed by the bank acknowledged the concerns raised by international organizations about Egypt’s commitment to implementing Article 1 of the bank’s political principles. Civil society organizations, in their dialogue with the bank, have previously raised a number of human rights, rule of law and economic issues. The draft strategy also recognized, in a diplomatic way, the existence of major governance problems in Egypt, and linked them to the economic weight of state-owned companies, in reference to the role of companies controlled by the Egyptian army.
The CIHRS’s statement stated that despite the remarkable care in preparing the draft’s political assessment, it ignored some pivotal facts, including, for example, the fact that the presidential elections that Egypt witnessed in 2018 were not fair. The draft also referred, excessively, to the Egyptian constitution, ignoring the state’s legislation and practices that violate these constitutional rules. According to CIHRS, the draft also included references to critical assessments by the United Nations and civil society organizations of the situation in Egypt. At the conclusion of its statement, the organization stressed that the bank’s continuation of lending operations without real reform may delay Egypt’s failure a little, but it will not prevent it.