ASSOCIATION DES COPTES D’EUROPE
15 Avenue du Bel Air
75012 PARIS - FRANCE
Tel 33 1 30 37 06 29
CAN THE COPTS EXPECT FROM THE EUROPEAN UNION ?
Protection of the Coptic “minority“ in Egypt comes
under the sphere of competence of two areas of the EU : the CFSP , Common
Foreign and Security Policy, in a
general way, and the Mediterranean Policy, more specifically.
In neither of these areas, can the EU seen to
have any marked favourable activity toward the Copts. Why? This short memorandum
intends to analyse the reasons why, without hiding behind a reality dressed by
Copts and CFSP
Within the framework of CFSP which has been
developed over ten years, the Union has set very broad objectives, including
the safeguard of common values, the development of fundamental freedoms,
through the respect of human rights, and a rule of law state and democracy. But
EU actions in these areas have been both isolated and limited.
Concerning minorities, the EU deals mostly with
those residing normally within its
territory, where problems are minor ; so,
if Egyptian Copts refugee in France were victims of
discrimination, on French soil, then the EU would probably intervene. The EU is
interested, and often very closely, in the minorities living in the states
which are candidates, or likely to be candidate, to European adhesion ;
this is the case for Magyars, Roms, Gypsies and Tziganes in Central Europe,
Kosovars, or Bosnians in the Balkans, and even Kurds in Turkey. The
question of religious minorities is at the most, followed
to keep a clear conscience (as in the case of Tibetans), as these problems fall
mainly within the competence of the
Considering its reluctance to assume its
“Christian inheritance“, we can understand the EU’s shiness in discussing
discriminations involving Christians in Eastern Europe, Middle East or African
countries. The probable adhesion of Turkey to European Union makes UE
even more prudent in its attitude toward Islam.
We must not forget that the protection of
religious or other minorities is only one aspect of European or national
diplomacy. So sympathy for the slaughtered Chechens must be weighed against the
interest of profitable relations with Russia ;
the imprisonment of Catholics who do not
belong to the Chinese Patriotic Church
or followers of gymnastic Buddhist Fa Lun gong sect never aroused any revolt
among the European authorities : China is such a promising partner…
The flood of Assyro-Chaldeans to Sarcelles (a suburb town close to Paris),
forced to flee by the Turks, the treatment of Kurds and other Arabs in Iraq,
did not raise any interest, on the contrary, their respective fates do not
“weigh“ much when compared to other diplomatic considerations.
So, little attention was paid to the treatment
of Egyptian Copts ; it is just one minor element in relations with Egypt, and not widely known.
Copts and the EU’s Mediterranean policy
geographic reasons, Mediterranean countries are among of those
benefiting from “privileged“ relations with the EU, as due, but for different
reasons, developing countries or Eastern
European countries which have not yet
been admitted to the group of “ 25“. Of course, considering the priority
orientations of European institutions, those privileges fall mainly within
customs and commercial domains. As early as 1977, Egypt was favoured by such an
Then appeared the Euro-Mediterranean
Association Agreements, more ambitious since they also provided a “Political
Dialogue at regular intervals“ ; in 1995, Tunisia and Israel were the
first partners, soon followed by Morocco, the Palestinian Authority and Jordanian, with other states, including
Egypt destined to follow.
But the first list is quite significant: Tunisia is far
from being a paragon of democracy, the President is elected without any risk,
and journalists belonging to opposition or human rights defenders are very
often imprisoned. As regards Israel,
making it a model of protection of minorities is quite improper. And yet, the
European /Israeli agreement insisted on the necessity of founding peace (with
the Palestinians), rejecting terrorism and respecting democracy. Ten years on,
the results are not very conclusive.
Euro-Mediterranean Agreements have been the instrument of a more global policy,
initiated in 1992, which should lead to a “Euro-Mediterranean Partnership “defined
by the Barcelona
Conference (so, the name of “Barcelona Protocol“, as it is sometimes called). But,
that partnership is solely commercial, even if its goal for 2010 is a free trade area in a communal zone of
peace and stability. In 1995, a first conference included the then 15
European and the 12 Mediterranean countries, including Egypt; that
conference was followed by others, always with a commercial goal. In 2000, the
poor results obtained had to be acknowledged.
The adhesion of 10 new members, with which the EU is now concerned, will
not speed up the realisation of this costly partnership.
And what about human rights? Several times, the
European Parliament intervened, without any power of decision (which probably
explains why) mostly in cases concerning North Africa,
terrorism and the Palestinian electoral process.
Considering the priority given to commercial
matters and to respecting the sovereignty of “friendly“ states, as in the case
of Egypt, and added to that the reluctance to act in favour of Christians, no
actions are to be expected in favour of the Egyptian Copts, in whatever
form : neither spectacular – even oral –
ones nor less conspicuous, but more effective ones.
The abductions of young Copt girls is, of
course, quite unfortunate, but in France we are so ashamed of legislating on
forced marriages imposed on young Moslem girls that it would not be proper to
intervene on behalf of Egyptian authorities. The EU, as an institution, would
not accept to return to the “Capitulations“ era, when it was in charge of
protecting Christians against abuses of the Ottoman Empire.
However, according to the Agreement of
Barcelona Protocol, the EU (and probably its Parliament) could insist that the
respect of minorities and the equality among citizens belonging to any religion
must be expressly and systematically mentioned, not as a simple clause, but
as a condition of that “Peace and Stability Zone“.
Of course, Egypt will claim that it is the
case, and probably no European government would be courageous enough to
contradict it. But, if such measures could be clearly included, it could be
used by a Monitoring Committee receiving
complaints of any violations of commitments and transmitting them to the
European institutions, as did the committees born from the 1995 Helsinki
Meanwhile, and in a more practical way, through
well documented and regular information directed to European Deputies likely to
be interested in these questions, and by services of the Union’s
future Minister of Foreign Affairs, Copts could maintain a pressure of sorts on
the Egyptian authorities and remind us that religious discrimination is
the rule for Eastern/Oriental Christians.
and possible collaboration of other communities suffering similar violations of
international conventions would constitute a significant reinforcement.
17 avril 2005