Already for many days Egypt has been in trouble, a country covered by tough opposition supporters and opponents of President Hosni Mubarak. An 83-year-old head of state has controlled Egypt for 30 decades, beginning in 1981 and, according to the opposition, it has a failed. Mubarak himself said that after completing his term in autumn 2011, in the next elections he will not take part. Massive protests began on January 25 when demonstrators demanding the resignation of the president took the main square of Cairo. Allegedly as a result of clashes, nearly 300 people have been killed and more than 1,000 wounded.
The history of the Arab world shows that such revolutions are rarely spontaneous, but behind them are often more powerful players in the international arena. In 1950, the Arab world was also a wave of mass unrest. Then a pro-British regime was overthrown in Egypt, and also in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Syria and Iraq in a struggle against colonialism and its legacy. The west, however, was not so much scared then by “the ghost of Arab unity”, but by the possible strengthening of Soviet influence in the region. To Lebanon and Jordan were sent British and American troops, and in 1956 London and Paris together with Israel went to war against Egypt. A stop was possible only after the Soviet Union ultimatum.
Later in the region, a relative equilibrium was established. Some countries had established dictatorial regimes friendly to USSR. In others, dictators came to power, ready to abandon pan-Arabism ideas for their own stability. They received support from the west, and in exchange not only struggled with the leftist movements, but also with religious extremists. Relative status quo was maintained in the late 1990′s – early 2000′s. The fall of the pro-South Yemen regime was regarded as normal, and the collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq was initially greeted with concern (especially in Syria and Libya), but in general, Arab leaders have not stood up in support of Iraq.
But what are the consequences of events in Egypt for Ukraine now, a second country after Russia with regards to the number of tourist visitations? First of all, Egypt was the second or the third in the turnover of Ukraine in the Middle East. Turnover for some tim fluctuated within $0.5 billion, now it was approaching $1 billion dollars. Syria, Egypt and Israel, three countries in the Middle East who somehow dominate the trade with Ukraine.
What was the prerequisite for starting the riots? It is possible that a prerequisite for riots was worsening economic situation, especially imminent food crisis. The authoritarian regime in the format of either dictatorship or quazi-democracy may be quite legitimate and have considerable support, but the problem is that sooner or later, this mode ceases to meet the minimum needs and immediately loses its legitimacy, slowly accumulating discontent which may not even be very noticeable, but suddenly a small trinket happens, some small-looking event, for example lack of bread, begins the revolution. That’s what happened during the 1917 February Revolution in Russia, when delayed transportation of food caused the overthrow of the Russian Empire. In the case of Egypt, revolution in Tunisia inspired people to fight.
The situation of those who might come to power, and with whom will business have to work is quite complicated. Speaking of El-Baradei, he would probably not be like the charismatic leader, but today he is influential with the opposition. Taking, for example, the fact that one of the largest oppositions, the Egyptian “Muslim Brothers”, are listening to him. He received the authority to negotiate on behalf of all opposition forces. However, El-Baradei does not look a unique candidate for the next president. However, it may be desirable from the perspective of the situation towards country’s new authoritarianism. Such threats are serious and they are a problem of democracy, not just a problem of transparent and fair elections, but the problem of democratic institutions and procedures in Egypt which is unfortunately missing.
It is difficult to predict when the riots in this country will die away, but, in fact, many are interested in quickly ended riots, especially those very interested in business, particularly tourism and the circle of people associated with it because disturbances influence the economic climate and cause a difficult life. Thus, pressure from economic elites to declare victory as quickly as possible and the end of the acute phases of the conflict can be very constructive.
Ukrainians, and all the other tourists in this context, can have indirect positive effect on resolving the conflict. Tourism is work and money for many Egyptians. Obviously, nobody wants to lose this attractive market. For example, the Turks immediately figured out and have raised prices, and Tunisian ambassadors in Russia and Ukraine claim tourists go to Tunisia now. In this market, there is tough competition, and therefore no one wants to hand over their positions.
By Iana Roginska