Brussels cheered after Egypt's President stepped down today (11 February) following 18 days of massive protests. "Today the voice of the Egyptian people was heard. Political responsibility has prevailed," said European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek.
"The decision taken by President Mubarak should facilitate democratic transition without further violence," Buzek added, hailing developments as an historic day of peaceful, lasting and democratic change.
Hosni Mubarak has stepped down and the vice-president has named a military council to run the country's affairs, state television said today (11 February) after 18 days of mass protests against his rule.
A ruling party official said earlier that Mubarak and his family had left Cairo for the glitzy Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where there is a presidential residence. He said this proved Mubarak had handed power to his deputy, Omar Suleiman.
In the morning, Egypt's powerful military issued guarantees that promised democratic reforms would be carried out, but angry protesters intensified the uprising against Mubarak by marching on the presidential palace and the state television headquarters.
The army's gesture was an effort to defuse an 18-day-old revolt unprecedented in modern Egypt but, in ignoring the key demand of protesters for Mubarak to leave now, it failed to stop turmoil disrupting the economy and rattling the Middle East.
Mubarak had promised only that he would not for re-election in September and that he would preside over reforms until then.
This was not enough for the many hundreds of thousands of mistrustful protesters who rallied in cities across the Arab world's most populous and influential country on Friday, fed up with high unemployment, a corrupt elite and police repression.
The escalating confrontation has raised fear of uncontrolled violence in the most populous Arab nation, a key US ally in an oil-rich region where the chance of chaos spreading to other long stable but repressive states troubles the West.
(EURACTIV with Reuters.)
"We welcome the decision made by President Mubarak today. By standing down, he has listened to the voices of the Egyptian people and has opened the way to faster and deeper reforms, and an orderly transition to democracy," said European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and EU High Representative Catherine Ashton in a joint statement.
"The EU salutes the courage of the Egyptian people who have pursued their campaign for democratic change peacefully and with dignity.
"It is important now that the dialogue is accelerated leading to a broad-based civilian government which will respect the aspirations of, and deliver stability for, the Egyptian people.
"An orderly and irreversible transition towards democracy and free and fair elections is the shared objective of both the EU and the Egyptian people. Violence can never be accepted. Respect of Human Rights and fundamental freedoms is key," they continued.
"The preservation of regional peace and stability should remain our shared priority.
"The future of Egypt rightly remains in the hands of the Egyptian people. We call on Army to continue to act responsibly and to ensure that the democratic change takes place in a peaceful manner.
"The EU stands ready to help with all its instruments," the EU leaders' statement concluded.
"Today is an historic moment" said ALDE group leader Guy Verhofstadt, commenting on the announcement that Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak had stepped down. "After more than two weeks of demonstrations, the Egyptian people finally got what they have been fighting for: freedom and democracy."
"Following Tunisia, Egypt will now start the democratic process. The people of Tunisia and Egypt have proven wrong those in the west that claim that Islam and democracy are not compatible. When we see Muslims and Christians demonstrate shoulder to shoulder, we are very confident in the strength of the people to build an open society and a liberal democracy. ALDE will give all possible support and ask the European Union to do the same," he concluded.
Speaking from Cairo, UK Liberal Democrat MEP and European Parliament Vice-President Edward McMillan-Scott (ALDE) said "I am not here as a Briton or European, I am here as an honorary Egyptian, to rejoice in the defeat of a tyrant. Now we should stand back and leave it to the Arab countries to move towards democracy. We'll help if they ask but this is their future."
"The forthcoming elections bring special challenges. Let us hope that all parties will compete fairly, without privilege and in the interests of the Egyptian people," he added.
"The departure of Hosni Mubarak is the beginning of the peaceful transition of Egypt towards pluralistic democracy, good governance and human rights, responding to the aspirations of the Egyptian people," said French MEP Joseph Daul, chairman of the European People's Party group and Cypriot MEP Ioannis Kasoulides, vice-chairman of the EPP group responsible for foreign affairs.
"The Egyptians have now the responsibility to build a peaceful, stable and democratic country and the EU must act in solidarity with them by all possible means," they said.
"The Egyptian people have shown clearly that they want a new democratic beginning for their country," said Socialists & Democrats (S&D) group leader Martin Schulz, describing Mubarak’s departure as "long overdue".
"This is an historic day that may mark the dawn of a new era in Egypt’s development. This peaceful revolution has shown the power behind the ideas of freedom and democracy," the German MEP said.
Schulz called for the army to continue to play a constructive role in order to avoid any further violence. It should guarantee genuine and open political dialogue as the basis of democratic transition, he said.
He added: "The S&D Group calls for a political process, which must be launched immediately, involving all democratic political and social forces with the aim of paving the way for genuine democracy in Egypt."
"We call for significant EU support for democratic transformation as well as, in a wider context, for economic and social reforms in Egypt, with a special focus on the young generation that is so important for the stability and prosperity of the country," Schulz concluded.
Events in Cairo appear to emulate Tunisia's 'Jasmine Revolution'. On 14 January, angry Tunisians ousted authoritarian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali after more than 23 years in power. A week later, Algerian opposition supporters clashed with police in the country's capital. Several people were injured.
Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak has ruled his country with a iron fist for three decades.
Mubarak, 82, has no designated successor. This has fuelled speculation that he is grooming his son, Gamal, 47, who has taken on an increasingly prominent political role in the past decade, rising to head the policy secretariat of his father's ruling National Democratic Party.
- ALDE group:http://www.alde.eu/press/press-and-release-news/press-release/article/verhofstadt-on-egypt-a-triumph-for-freedom-and-democracy-37064/(Press release; 12 February 2011)
- EPP group: Egypt: Departure of Mubarak - beginning of a peaceful transition(Press release; 11 February 2011)
- Socialists & Democrats (S&D) group:Mubarak’s resignation 'dawn of a new era in Egypt's development'(Press release; 11 February 2011)