EU energy summit eclipsed by Egyptian unrest

10:07, February 05, 2011      

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Unrest in Egypt took center stage on Friday when European Union leaders held their first summit of the year.

The session initally had been devoted to an orientation debate on energy policy in the 27-nation bloc.

Speaking to reporters upon her arrival for the one-day summit, Catherine Ashton, the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, urged Egypt to work out the transition toward democratic reforms and pledged to support the effort.

"We have been very clear that it is for the Egyptian people and the Egyptian government to work out the transition," Ashton said. "This transition must be for them to do and for us to support them in doing."

Ashton said Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman would continue discussions with opposition leaders, who also have agreed to keep in close touch with her.

In Egypt, anti-government protestors demanding the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak were gearing up for their 11th day of street demonstrations on Friday. Clashes between Mubarak supporters and protestors killed at least three people and wounded some 600 hundred on Wednesday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday called on Egyptian security forces to make sure that "this decisive Friday and peaceful demonstrations are possible for the people."

British Prime Minister David Cameron also urged Cairo to accept an orderly transition of power.

"EU leaders today have to come together to show they support the orderly transition," Cameron said.

Addressing reporters at the opening of the summit, Jerzy Buzek, president of the European Parliament, began by expressing concerns over the situation in Egypt.

"The voice of the people demanding democratic change is loud and clear. We cannot and should not remain indifferent to those calls," Buzek said. "We must be ready to support the democratic changes."

Buzek said a European Parliament delegation was in Tunis, the first North African country that saw its government toppled by mass protests and served as a trigger for the unrest in Egypt.

"It is time to start thinking about a new strategy between the EU and Tunisia," Buzek said. "Stability matters, but a stable neighborhood is less important than a stable democratic neighborhood."

Earlier Thursday, the prime ministers of Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain, and the president of France issued a joint statement calling for a transition process to start immediately in Egypt.

"Only a quick and orderly transition to a broad-based government will make it possible to overcome the challenges Egypt is now facing," the statement said.

As for the scheduled topic of energy and innovation, President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, who chaired Friday's meeting, said Wednesday in an invitation letter that the leaders were expected to quickly endorse draft conclusions concerning the future direction of the EU's energy policy.

He also said the leaders would discuss ways to boost Europe's innovation potential and approve the conclusions on innovation, which were believed to be "uncontroversial."

As the sovereign debt crisis in the euro zone has dominated every EU summit for a year, the summit was expected to advance discussion on measures and reforms to counter the effects of the debt crisis.

EU leaders would take stock of the progress made so far and set out a clear path towards a comprehensive anti-crisis package by next summit in March, Van Rompuy said.

Source: Xinhua
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