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EU Support for Governance in Egypt - 'well-intentioned but ineffective', say EU Auditors

By European Court of Auditors (ECA)
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BRUSSELS, Kingdom of Belgium, June 20, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- A report published by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) is highly critical of EU aid spending to promote key areas of governance in Egypt in the periods before and after the Uprising of January 2011. “The 'softly softly' approach has not worked, and the time has come for a more focused approach which will produce meaningful results and guarantee better value for the European taxpayers' money” stated Mr Karel Pinxten, the ECA member responsible for the report.

The audit focused on Public Finance Management (PFM) and the fight against corruption on the one hand and human rights and democracy on the other hand.

For the period 2007-2013 approximately € 1 billion in aid was allocated by the EU to Egypt. As more than half of this amount is channelled through Egypt's treasury, using the aid mechanism known as budget support, considerable reliance is placed on the country's PFM.

The Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) failed to ensure that the Egyptian authorities tackled major weaknesses in PFM. Lack of budgetary transparency, an ineffective audit function and endemic corruption were all examples of these undermining weaknesses. The Commission and the EEAS did not react to the lack of progress by taking decisive action to ensure accountability for considerable EU funds, which continued to be paid directly to the Egyptian Authorities.

Similarly, little progress was achieved by EU interventions in support of human rights and democracy. The main human rights programme was largely unsuccessful. It was slow to commence and was hindered by the negative attitude of the Egyptian authorities. The Commission and the EEAS did not use the financial and political leverage at their disposal to counteract this intransigence. Some elements of the programme had to be dropped completely. Funds channelled through Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) were not sufficient to make a discernible difference.

Following the Uprising no new major initiatives were taken to tackle key human rights issues and the measures taken have had little impact to date. Women's and minorities' rights were not given sufficient attention in the Review which followed, despite the critical need for urgent action to counter the tide of growing intolerance.