Interview: William Hague
What can Egypt do to ensure strong public accountability during this period of change?
WILLIAM HAGUE: Through their revolution in 2011, the Egyptian people made clear their call for change. Over the past 18 months the British government has encouraged the Egyptian authorities to establish a clear set of timelines and actions for the transition to democratic civilian rule through a transparent and inclusive process. To meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people, this change should lead to a legitimate and democratic government, underpinned by robust state institutions, including a functioning parliament that can help provide accountability and a constitution that guarantees and protects the rights of all Egyptians. Full respect for freedom of expression and assembly, a free press and a vibrant civil society would also ensure strong public accountability. On June 24, 2012 President Morsy was announced as the first democratically elected president of Egypt. This is a significant, but not the sole, step in the path towards democracy.
What role can the UK play to mitigate the economic risks that threaten a successful transition?
HAGUE: It is widely recognised that Egypt has significant economic challenges ahead. A large external financing gap, coupled with increasing unemployment, reduced tourism and stalled growth, is putting tremendous pressure on Egypt’s fiscal position.
We are working hard to help and encourage Egypt to get the politics right because we know how important this will be for the economics. In the long term, Egypt faces many of the same challenges as other developing countries with a young population. It needs major reforms in areas such as education and skills for employability. Egypt can only create an economy that meets its needs by tackling difficult issues such as subsidies and the size of the public sector. It must also make progress in tackling corruption. The UK is supporting Egypt and attempting to address these issues in three different ways. First, we are funding important work in areas such as teacher training and skills for employability. Second, we are encouraging British companies to remain committed to the Egyptian market, which helps create jobs and stimulate growth. Last, we are playing a key role through the EU and within the G8, which the UK will chair in 2013, to ensure that the international community keeps its offer to Egypt on the table.
To what extent can Egypt draw on other models of successful democracies in the region?
HAGUE: There is no “one size fits all” model of a successful democracy upon which Egypt – or any other country in transition – can draw. Of course there are certain features that characterise democracies: free and fair elections, a separation of power between the legislature and executive, and the application of the rule of law to all. Egypt can draw on models and expertise both in the region and outside. It is also true that one of the most remarkable features of the Arab Spring has been the manner in which people across the region have drawn inspiration from each other to demand that their governments build more open and democratic societies.
How can the UK increase collaboration and cooperation with the new Egyptian government?
HAGUE: This is an historic moment for Egypt and the UK welcomes President Morsy’s statement that he intends to form an inclusive government that governs on behalf of all Egyptian people, with respect for equality for all, for human rights and for the rights of women. We will engage with all political parties participating in the new political structures where they respect such a process. In addition, we have a clear commitment to human rights, the rule of law and non-violence. It will be important for the new government to stand for national unity and reconciliation and to build bridges across society.
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