Page last updated at 18:10 GMT, Wednesday, 12 December 2012

EU's Ashton urged to show leadership over Egypt crisis

The EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs has been urged to show "urgent leadership" to deal with the current unrest in Egypt.

Violence has broken out across Egypt in recent weeks following a decree - since withdrawn - by President Mohammed Morsi last month to give himself near unlimited new powers.

Opponents believe the president and his supporters are trying to take near dictatorial powers to mould the new Egypt to their wishes, although he has tried to calm public anger by annulling the decree.

The opposition says the draft document, backed by President Mohammed Morsi and his supporters, is too Islamist as it keeps in place an article defining "principles of Sharia", or Islamic law, as the main source of legislation.

Speaking during a foreign affairs debate on 12 December 2012 Dutch Liberal MEP Marietje Schaake accused the Morsi regime of being "inexperienced but power hungry".

Speaking on behalf of the absent High Representative for Foreign Affairs Baroness Ashton, Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis from the Council of Ministers called for an immediate "de-escalation" of the violence.

"Egypt needs a strong constitution that represents all Egyptians" she added.

Mr Morsi became Egypt's first democratically elected president in June 2012 and is broadly backed by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.

His supporters point to the fact that he is Egypt's first freely elected president and claim that "liberals and secularists" do not represent the vast majority of Egyptians.

Useful links:

Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work.

A disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations, on the European Parliament's website.

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