30 September, Hrad Restaurant, Bratislava: Taking place just days after Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood was banned by the country’s interim authorities, the first instalment of the BratislavaCHAT series, a new project of the Slovak Atlantic Commission, offered a unique blend of views on both the latest events in Egypt and the possible ways towards reconciliation.
The panel of the event “Egypt: What is the way towards reconciliation?” comprised of H.E. Ihab Nasr, Egypt’s Ambassador to Slovakia; Zora Hesova, researcher at the Association for International Affairs (AMO) and PhD candidate in Islamic philosophy; and Irena Kalhousova, chief analyst at the Prague Securities Studies Institute (PSSI).
The speakers agreed that the road towards reconciliation of the most populous Middle Eastern country would be a long one. As the debate unfolded, two issues emerged as key factors – the role of the Egyptian army and the future of the Muslim Brotherhood movement.
As for the former, the panel was split as one of the speakers argued that reconciliation could not be reached if the military continued to call the shots in Egyptian politics. That opinion was challenged by the rest of the panellists who argued that the military had neither significant nor long-term presence in Egyptian public life and acted only to facilitate the will of the people, as was the case when the army stood up against the Morsi government earlier this year.
Some of the speakers suggested that the nation’s reconciliation might be difficult to achieve when branches of the Muslim Brotherhood were being banned and its representatives arrested in the hundreds. However, the speakers agreed that the Brotherhood was not a monolithic organisation, but rather an umbrella body housing a variety of opinions ranging from moderate to extremist. Hence, the future of the Brotherhood will also depend on which one of these factions will prevail and emerge as dominant following the current turmoil.
Egypt’s economic prospects proved to be the most contentious point of the debate. Some of the speakers argued that the country’s bleak economic prospects helped trigger the transition back in January 2011. Others, however, pointed out that despite the tumultuous thirty months, Egypt’s economy was still producing good economic results.
While calling for a more direct involvement of the European Union in Egypt’s transformation, the speakers agreed that any foreign assistance should only be a secondary factor in a successful transition process.
BratislavaCHAT is a project of the Slovak Atlantic Commission (SAC) ran with the support of the Representation of the European Commission in Slovakia, inspired by a four-year tradition of the Transatlantic Security Forum (TBF) debates. The project focuses on current international affairs and provides the Slovak public with the opportunity to openly discuss most pressing foreign policy, security and economy issues with special expert guests