Ashton signs €90 million assistance to Egypt
European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton. [Georges Gobet/AFP]
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EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton has signed a financial agreement of €90 million in assistance to Egypt despite "worrying reports" related to the security forces' handling of recent protests in Cairo.
Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Bahaaeddin met Ashton on his Tuesday visit to Brussels in Belgium to discuss Egypt's economic situation and the EU's assistance to the socio-economic sector and civil society.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Ashton said their discussions included Egypt's implementation of the political roadmap, which entails an elected parliament and president by the summer. However, she also raised concerns about the "security forces' violent dispersal and arrests during yesterday's protests against military trials."
"While I acknowledged that Egypt's stability and the population's need for a secure environment is important, I underlined that fundamental human rights have to be respected at all times," Ashton said.
Ashton was referring to the security forces' Tuesday dispersal of two protests with water cannons and tear gas as well as the resulting detention of 24 activists. Footage of the dispersals and arrests revealed heavy-handed conduct on the part of security forces, with protesters dragged and some even slapped.
Ashton said the assistance package included a financial agreement worth €90 million for Egypt, which will be used in projects aimed to increase children's access to education, social and economic assistance to the most impoverished areas and improvements in unplanned housing.
On earlier visits to Egypt, Ashton had repeatedly pushed for the adoption of an inclusive democratic process, recommending the renewal of attempts for a settlement between the interim government and the Muslim Brotherhood, who remain at odds since the popularly-backed military ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi in July.