Documents considered by the Committee on 16 March 2011 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

9 EU-Egypt restrictive measures






COM(11) 132

Council Decision concerning restrictive measures directed against certain persons and entities in view of the situation in Egypt

Council Regulation concerning restrictive measures directed against certain persons and entities in view of the situation in Egypt

Legal base(a)  Article 29 TEU; unanimity

(b)  Article 215 TFEU; QMV

Documents originated(a)  —

(b)  10 March 2011

Deposited in Parliament(a)  —

(b)  16 March 2011

DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of considerationEMs of 11 March 2011
Previous Committee ReportNone
To be discussed in Council21 March 2011 Foreign Affairs Council
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared


9.1 On 11 February 2011, following 18 days of country-wide protests, the then Egyptian Vice-President Omar Suleiman announced that Hosni Mubarak had resigned as President of Egypt and handed over control to the Military Council. This followed three public speeches by Mubarak promising reforms but making clear that he was determined to stay in the Presidency until elections in September.

The draft Council Decision and Council Regulation

9.2 Noting that on 21 February 2011, the European Union declared its readiness to support the peaceful and orderly transition to a civilian and democratic government in Egypt based on the rule of law, with full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and to support efforts to create an economy which enhances social cohesion and promotes growth, the Council Decision and Council Regulation[46] provide for restrictive measures against "persons responsible for misappropriation of Egyptian State funds, and who are thus depriving the Egyptian people of the benefits of the sustainable development of their economy and society and undermining the development of democracy in the country."

The Government's view

9.3 In his Explanatory Memoranda of 11 March 2011, the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) says that, since assuming power, the Egyptian military has issued a number of statements reiterating its commitment to safeguarding the legitimate demands of the people and overseeing a transition to a democratic society; plus other commitments including the non-prosecution of those who called for reform, carrying out legislative amendments and ending the state of emergency as soon as the current circumstances come to an end.

9.4 He continues as follows:

"On 14 February 2011 we received a request from the Egyptians to freeze the assets of a small number of members of the former regime. The information provided was insufficient to take any significant law enforcement action domestically or to freeze assets on behalf of Egypt (in line with the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and associated Orders). UK officials have spoken to the Egyptian MFA and given oral and written guidance to the Egyptians on what information the UK would need to take forward asset freezing on their behalf under UK criminal law. There is, however, no way of knowing when, or if, such a request will be issued. Nonetheless, there is nothing further that can proactively be done to pursue this option at the moment.

"On 22 February 2011 we received a request to freeze the assets of former President Mubarak and members of his family. Again, the Egyptians have provide insufficient information for us to begin criminal proceedings, although they have indicated they will prepare a request for mutual legal assistance to return the assets to Egypt (returning the assets will only be possible if they have first been frozen and confiscated — returning ass[e]ts cannot be done under EU law). Other EU Member States have received a similar request.

"Following these requests, the Foreign Secretary agreed that we would raise the requests to freeze Egyptian assets at the EU working group (MaMa) in Brussels on 28 February 2011 and work to secure a Council Decision setting out the basis for the asset freeze, and a Council Regulation to give the asset freeze legal effect in EU Member States.

"The EU has now proposed the adoption of a Council Decision to put in place a mechanism by which to freeze these assets, and a Council Regulation to give these measures effect. This will send a positive message of support to the Egyptian authorities, whilst ensuring that EU Member States can respond to the requests with a uniform and consistent application of the asset freeze across the EU."

9.5 The Minister also notes that:

—  individuals and entities may only be listed where evidence exists that they are engaged in the activities listed under Article 1 of the Council Decision;

—  the Council Regulation will also be adopted in order to give effect to the asset freeze; though directly applicable in UK law, domestic legislation is required for enforcement measures, and to create penalties, in each EU Member State;

—  the procedures for designating individuals subject to the asset freeze are compliant with fundamental rights and principles; in particular, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and notably the right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial and the right to the protection of personal data;

—  designated persons and entities may present observations on the reasons for their listing, in the light of which the Council will review its decision and inform the person or entity concerned accordingly, and will be able to challenge their listing before the General Court of the European Union;

—  provision is made for competent authorities of Member States to authorise the release of frozen funds where necessary in certain circumstances, for example, to satisfy the basic needs of listed persons or their dependents and where necessary for humanitarian purposes, or where necessary for supply of foodstuffs, medical equipment or provision of health care.

9.6 The Minister concludes by noting that both the draft Council Decision and Council Regulation are to be adopted at the 21 March Foreign Affairs Council.


9.7 All of this is to be expected in the circumstances that the Minister describes. The procedures are standard. To what extent they will succeed in achieving the desired outcome must remain to be seen. But the EU and its Member States must clearly do what they can to respond to a legitimate request.

9.8 We now clear the document.

46   The policy measures set out in the Council Decision are implemented via the Council Regulation. Back

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Prepared 24 March 2011