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A meeting in Cairo: uh… in September, that suits you?

« A meeting this week? Ah no impossible, let's see, let's see... Our schedule is very busy for February. And we cannot receive foreign personalities. Call us back next month » This is in essence the response that was made by the Egyptian authorities (the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to their European counterpart, Cathy Ashton, who wanted to go to Cairo, following her visit to Tunis. A response that barely hides a snub to European diplomacy which is struggling as best it can to “stalwart” a visit for its leader. “ It's quite incomprehensible » comments a senior European diplomat who spoke to the press (yesterday). “ The EU is Egypt's largest partner. The High Representative has the mandate of the 27. If that is that, that means (a refusal) for all of Europe ».

Egyptians show their bad mood

Are these the latest declarations of the High Representative which motivate this refusal? Or on the contrary his lack of confidence? What seems likely is that the Egyptian authorities do not seem to like foreign intrusion and have other fish to fry. Rebuffing (a little) the High Representative is part of this logic. Especially since they seem to have little appreciated being reduced to the status of a “supplementary” visit to that of Tunis. And the Egyptians undoubtedly grasped all the European complexity; receiving an envoy from Brussels does not automatically mean coaxing London, Paris or Berlin.

A worrying erasure.

On the European side, we are concerned about this lack of appetite on the part of the Egyptian authorities. But we also call into question the double game of the diplomacies of the Member States. “ When other ministers rush to other capitals, we are faced with a considerable difficulty. How many people are there in the Middle East today? (NB: Wednesday) Can the High Representative go there the day after a visit by a European Minister? » And to add: " Not everyone really understood the new deal represented by the Lisbon Treaty. (...) We must not just speak with one voice, we must act with one voice. And to identify the difficult position in which the High Representative is.

This attitude and this comment illustrate, in my opinion, the difficulty of the new position of High Representative of the Lisbon Treaty. Structural difficulty: how to be at the same time chief diplomat (therefore discreet), head of ministers and independent commissioner (therefore rather loud-mouthed). Economic difficulty: how Cathy Ashton can impose herself compared to “loudmouths” like Sarkozy, Frattini, Bildt… who will always do as they please. I will come back…

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).