“The EU must support the Arab world’s revolution for democracy”

The EU must support the fight of Arabs for freedom and democracy, says Chairwoman of the European Parliament’s Human Rights Sub-Committee, MEP Heidi Hautala

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­The democratic wave which has hit the Arab world calls on all the sceptics to change their minds. I am impressed by such a strong, independent, popular revolution for freedom and democracy, this is rare in history. Although it is obviously in different contexts, I would compare 2011 to 1989.[:]

The European Union must react with humbleness. Too many times it has remained silent, like our Member States, in the face of authoritarian regimes. However this does not mean the EU should not be ambitious: there has never been a time to be more ambitious than today. Democracy is not an option, but a vital necessity. Those who call for stability at the price of democracy overlook the reality of Cairo’s Liberation Square and Bourguiba Avenue in Tunis. Who can prove that democracies are a danger to regional stability? The strength of the EU derives first from its democratic system, although it still has many weaknesses.

I admire the Arab world’s “shabab”, the Youth, the entire world admires them because they give us hope. Europe must remember 1989 and how slow it was to unite itself for human rights and democracy. We must not lose this historical opportunity to genuinely reinforce human rights around the globe. I believe there will be one day when Arabs will not look at Europe saying “this is the place of freedom” any more, because they will have conquered theirs.

The European Union must make clear it is against impunity and corruption. Let us not be hypocrites like we have been in the past. We cannot befriend with rulers or temporary military governments whose commitment for human rights are not clearly evidenced.

The Egyptian military must immediately release political prisoners and accept an independent enquiry on the serious cases of torture by the military police. Egypt’s Vice President cannot lead the transition with cases of torture on his record. The path to cleansing the hands of the authority is necessary and urgent if we want to pave the way for free and fair elections: the EU cannot afford another mistake.

MEP Heidi Hautala
Chairwoman, Human Rights Sub-Committee of the European Parliament