The Arab Republic of Egypt is a neighbouring country the EU cannot ignore. Known as the ‘mother’ of the Middle East and North African region, Egypt has had a long and reputed standing as the venue of choice for a succession of important regional and international events.
The EU has had diplomatic relations with Egypt since 1966. In 1977 the two partners signed a Co-operation Agreement and in 2001 an Association Agreement. The latter came into force in 2004 and is a legally binding treaty.
The EU seeks to develop not merely financial co-operation and trade relations with Egypt but also to support Egypt’s domestic and political reforms. Top on the EU’s agenda is democratic reform, economic modernization, social reform and migration issues.
EU-Egypt relations have been institutionalized further through the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (launched in 1995), the European Neighbourhood Policy (or ENP, launched in 2003) and the Union for the Mediterranean (launched in 2008).
Under the ENP's framework, an Action Plan spells out the current agenda in EU-Egypt relations. From 2004, Egypt undertook a comprehensive economic reform agenda, driven by a newly emergent elitist group. But political reforms remain limited.
In early 2011, Egypt underwent widespread protests against Mubarak's regime. The intensive campaign of civil resistance led to Mubarak's resignation on 11 February 2011. Power was then turned over to the military. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), headed by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi would lead the country through a transitional period until a civilian government took over.
On 21 February 2011, the EU declared its readiness to support the peaceful and orderly transition to a civilian and democratic government in Egypt. On 21 March 2011, the EU imposed a freeze on assets owned by persons identified as responsible for the misappropriation of Egyptian state funds, including the assets of former President Hosni Mubarak.
A Parliamentary election to the People's Assembly of Egypt was held from 28 November 2011 to January 2012. The final events in Egypt's first Parliamentary elections since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak confirmed an overwhelming victory for the Islamist parties.
According to the High Elections Committee, the Muslim Brotherhood, which was banned under Mubarak's regime, won the biggest share of Parliamentary seats (38%). Its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) named Saad al-Katatni, a leading Brotherhood official who sat in the old Parliament as an independent, as Speaker of the Assembly.
The hard-line Islamist Al-Nour party came second with 29% of the seats. The liberal New Wafd and Egyptian Bloc coalition came third and fourth respectively. The results meant that Islamists will wield major influence over a new constitution, which is set to be drafted by the country's first freely elected Parliament. At the time of writing (April 2012), both the ruling SCAF and the People's Assembly - the Lower House of Egypt's Parliament - were moblilised in an effort to expedite the post-revolution constitution-drafting process, ahead of next month's Presidential elections (planned for 23 and 24 May).