Rhein on Energy and Climate

Change in Egypt has become unstoppable. The Tunisian virus has infected Egyptian students and taken them to the streets, no longer by hundreds but by tens of thousands, no longer at one isolated place but in many places across the country.

The battle call is the same as in Tunisia: Mubarak quit; go to Saudi Arabia. So far only his son, Gamal, has followed their advice, taking his personal plane to London, hoping there to weather the storm before it is too late.

The Egyptian uprising follows the Tunisian pattern: massive discontent with a sclerotic and repressive regime, a President who has ruled the country for 30 years, rising food prices, high unemployment and lack of economic perspectives. The people, in particular the young ones, want basic political freedoms. They are fed up with the ruling party, the repression of opposition parties and thousands of opponents thrown into prisons without due process.

But there are four significant differences compared to Tunis.

  • There is no lack of capable candidates to replace the 82-years old Hosni Mubarak in the presidential elections scheduled for September. One of them is Nobel Prize Mohammed El Baradey, the former head of the IAEA in Vienna, who has already started campaigning.
  • Egypt does not dispose of the big numbers of well-educated people as Tunisia, which will make democracy and reforms more difficult.
  • Egypt will face even bigger difficulties in overcoming its economic woes, its economic policy having been burdened too long by high subsidies on wheat, gasoline, fuel etc.
  • The Army may not as easily as in Tunisia ignore a potential President`s call to restore order.

Whatever these difficulties, the Arab Street will be unstoppable. The revolution will devour the regimes one after the other, unless they have the courage to take the necessary political and economic reforms before being toppled.

The outcome of this dynamic is unforeseeable, as nobody had dared to foresee the revolution a month ago. In Egypt, the Muslim Brothers, the biggest and relatively best organised opposition group, may win in free elections. That is the price to paid for political freedom.

The EU cannot but support the Egyptian protesters. They only claim what the EU has always asked for, respect of human rights and democracy. But being blinded Mubarak`s – unsuccessful – role as a peace maker between Israel and Palestine, it has overlooked his deplorable human rights record at home.

It should therefore declare applaud those claiming for reforms in the streets of Cairo and not follow the example of Hillary Clinton who until yesterday was still firmly convinced of the “stability” of the Egyptian regime. After the Egyptian street have declared January 25 their “Day of Wrath”, Europe can be pretty sure that the next Egyptian President will be neither father or son Mubarak and better help Egyptians through a peaceful transition towards political stability, the rule of law and economic freedom without police repression and media control.

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  1. Lieber Eberhard,

    I remember with great admiration your vision for a prosperous, stable and economically vibrant Med region, developed back in the early 1990s. And I find it quite ironic that at the exact time when you envisaged a Euro-Med free trade area (that is 2010) to be established, the region finds itself in such a mess. Heartbreaking. Well, on to the present….

    Best regards,

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