Preisdent Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, accused by critics and rights groups of cracking down on all dissent, maintains that tough measures are needed to stabilize his country which has faced years of unrest after the fall of Mubarak.
After more than 30 years in power, Mubarak was replaced briefly by Islamist President Mohamed Morsi who was himself deposed in 2013 by former army chief al-Sisi.
But there are concerns that maintaining domestic stability could come at too high a price.
On the sidelines of a visit to Egypt late last month, French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters that he thought “current policies are perceived by intellectuals and Egypt’s civil society as tougher than under the Mubarak regime.”
“I can’t see how you can pretend to ensure long-term stability in this country, which was at the heart of the Arab Spring and showed its taste for freedom, and think you can continue to harden beyond what’s acceptable or justified for security reasons,” Macron said.
So how will France, and indeed Europe exert any diplomatic influence on Egypt and the rest of the region?
Galip Dalay says there can’t be stability without transformation and this is what Europe needs to focus on when building ties. Listen to his interview here.
Declining US influence
Europe needs to come up with its own policy in the Middle East, to counter balance the shift in US policies.
“We are talking about the two sides of the Mediterranean which is a liquid border which means it’s passable whatever happens in the Middle East will have immediate ramifications on the streets of Europe.”
In any case, Sisi does not see himself going anywhere anytime soon. On February 3rd, Egyptian lawmakers tabled proposed constitutional changes that would allow Sisi to extend his rule beyond 2022.
The vast majority of the current parliament supports the Sisi government, with only around 10 lawmakers making up the opposition.
As Egypt takes on the rotating presidency of the African Union, all eyes will be on it to lead the way on security, foreign policy issues and of course domestic issues such as terrorism in the Sinai region.
Sisi, attending the AU Summit in Addis Abeba on Sunday called for the root causes of extremism to be tackled.
Hi words echoed those of the African Union's peace and security chief Smail Chergui who highlighted youth unemployment as a key challenge.