Lundi 22 Avril 2019  

N°124 - Quatrième trimestre 2018

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  S.E.M. / H.E. Hatem Seif El NASR

Egypt and the Challenges of the Mediterranean World

The crossroads of the Arab, African and European worlds, Egypt continues to push forward with its drive to build a modern country and integrate the Euro-Mediterranean space. H.E. Hatem Seif El Nasr, the Ambassador of Egypt to France, shares his thoughts on reaching a “just and lasting peace” in the Middle East, as well as his country’s role in spurring regional development.

The Diplomatic Letter:  Mr. Ambassador, the Iraq crisis has opened a new chapter in Middle East history and reshaped the new world order. Could you summarize the unfolding and outcome of the Iraq conflict, as well as its consequences, for our readers? As the historical leader of the nonaligned movement, what role would Egypt like to see the United Nations play in postwar Iraq? How can the U.N. reassert its voice on the international stage as the reconstruction of Iraq moves forward?

H.E. Hatem Seif El Nasr:
Egypt has always maintained that the law, including international law, must be upheld with regard to Iraq. Since the first Gulf war, in 1991, the Iraqi people have had to endure repeated embargoes as well as a dictatorship. They have suffered too much, to be put through another war. Egypt and its president, Hosni Mubarak, worked actively alongside our regional and international partners to give diplomatic efforts a chance.
The war has now been fought. The battle of Iraq was decisive, on a military level. Saddam Hussein’s regime has fallen. We are facing a brand-new situation, a fact that must be keep in mind as we move quickly forward to find a solution that is both realistic and fully legitimate in the eyes of the world. This is a chance to help the Iraqi people regain their dignity and freedom. Egypt hopes that everyday life will return to normal as quickly as possible in Iraq, and that the security situation will be brought under control. The military forces inside Iraq should not prolong their stay or widen their scope of action, so that the Iraqi people can make their own political decisions and elect a representative, civilian government. Giving the United Nations a major role in the political and financial arenas will lend legitimacy to any actions undertaken there, and will open the way for greater participation by the various factions within Iraq as well as neighboring countries. The military forces inside Iraq have a dual responsibility: ensuring the security of the Iraqi people along with the country’s territorial integrity, in accordance with the Geneva Convention.
The current stage is especially crucial, in that we must cope with a humanitarian crisis as well as security issues. The country’s various infrastructures and public services, paralyzed by the war and the long years of sanctions, must be put back in operation rapidly and effectively. After this is done, Egypt hopes to see real progress in rebuilding Iraq’s political framework. Winning the peace is far more difficult than winning the war. In that light, Egypt hopes that the security system will initially be encompassed within a legal framework laid out by the United Nations. U.N. cover will create a legitimate and transparent framework for the various talks aimed at putting together a political reconstruction process.
Heedful of the need to safeguard this great country’s cultural heritage, Egypt has condemned the plundering of Iraq’s museums. The National Museum in Baghdad contained the world’s largest collection of artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia, the cradle of the Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian civilizations that gave mankind writing,  written law, and our very first cities. The museum was completely ransacked. The vast majority of the museum’s 170,000 pieces have disappeared. While these losses are especially painful for the Iraqi people, they are also a terrible loss for mankind as a whole.
The Iraqi people deserve to see justice served. Their past must be put back in their hands, along with their future. Egypt is anxious to see the Iraqi people recover their heritage, patrimony, and resources, as well as respect for their country’s territorial integrity. Above all, we want to see them take their own destiny in hand. We all share the same objectives and principles: ensuring Iraq’s unity, stability, and territorial integrity, and allowing Iraqis to reclaim their national sovereignty as quickly as possible.

T.D.L.: In these difficult times, what is Egypt doing to put behind the successive shocks of September 11th and the second Gulf War, and rekindle economic growth? Along with the great headway in opening up the economy, does Cairo plan to launch specific measures to revive exports, push forward the privatization program, lift trade barriers, and encourage foreign investments? Is it possible to promote this policy and still respond to the Iraqi people’s growing concerns about improving social conditions inside the country?

The war in Iraq has, indeed, exacerbated the impact of the events of Sept. 11 on the Egyptian economy. The drop in oil and tourism revenues, coupled with the international economic slowdown and security problems in the region, has had a negative effect on growth in 2002/2003. Tourist revenue, our major source of foreign exchange and the driving force behind economic growth, dropped more than 22% between July 2001 and March 2002. Egypt’s GDP consequently grew by just 3.1% in 2002, compared to 5.1% in 2000.
Egypt has managed, nonetheless, to set up the key pillars of its economic and social growth over the past several years. The structural adjustments and continuing reforms in Egypt, along with a clear upturn in tourism and the fluctuation of the national currency, should boost economic growth and revive exports.
Over the past few years Egypt has launched an entire series of reforms and made deep-reaching -even drastic- adjustments, with the aim of completely reshaping the structure of its economy and thus spurring it to take off.
One of the most important aspects of this reform is a change in Egypt's governance practices. In other words, a change in the very structure of government interaction with economic operators. We have sought to change, and even eliminate, unnecessary layers that have been part of Egypt’s bureaucratic machine for centuries and only complicate our administrative structure. These reforms have been both structural and conceptual, and have turned the State and its economic operators into veritable partners in the economic development process.
The reform program carried out by the Egyptian government since June 2001 has reduced the foreign debt and the budget deficit, as well as the inflation rate. It has also boosted the role of the private sector – which now generates over two-thirds of Egypt’s GDP – and got the economy growing again. The government’s policy rotates around the following objectives:
– Widening the privatization program.
– Modernizing the nation’s infrastructure.
– Modernizing our industrial base.
– Promoting investments, including Egyptian, Arab and foreign investments, and reducing limitations on investments.
– Encouraging exports and floating the Egyptian pound.
– Promoting greater economic cooperation and trade, at the regional and international levels.
Egypt has signed new regional and international agreements, with the aim of encouraging greater exports. At the regional level, within the Arab world, Egypt has been one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Greater Arab Free Trade Area, which involves gradually removing trade barriers and launching an inter-Arab free-trade zone in 2005.
At the level of the greater African region, Egypt is also a member of COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa). This free-trade zone brings together several countries in eastern and southern Africa, creating a market with over 300 million consumers.
At the international level, Egypt has signed and ratified an association agreement with the European Union, its main trading partner. According to the terms of this agreement, Egypt will give E.U. countries preferential treatment by dismantling its tariffs in four stages over a 15-year period. This accord is part of a campaign launched in 1995 to build a strong Euro-Mediterranean partnership in the economic, political and social arenas. Eventually, trade will flow freely between Egypt and the European Union.
– Finally, there’s the social dimension. The reform and restructuring of the Egyptian economy have already had a positive impact on growth (3.1%). The government is however convinced that it isn’t enough to simply wait for the growth rate to rise, and that it is absolutely vital to pay equal attention to the quality of this growth, ensuring it touches every class of society and spreads from the core to the periphery of the economy. This has paved the way for remarkable social headway, most notably by improving healthcare, stabilizing population growth (1.99% in 2002), and bringing a tremendous drop in the infant mortality rate. The  government is continuing to push forward with its efforts in the areas of health, public transportation, and education.

T.D.L.: As a beneficiary of international aid, much of it from the U.S., does Egypt have much room to maneuver as it tries to strike a balanced position between the Arab countries, on the one hand, and the United States and Israel on the other? On a broader level, how do you feel about U.S. policy toward the region, and the Bush administration’s plans to “reshape the Middle East political landscape”?

Certain members of the American administration are, indeed, talking about reshaping the political landscape in the Middle East. It is true that certain members of the Bush administration have voiced their support for establishing a new political roadmap for the region. They add that Iraq is the first link, and that it will create a domino effect that will spread throughout the entire region. Egypt does not see things the same way. It remains convinced that one cannot achieve stability and peace by imposing them, but instead by building greater mutual understanding and cooperation, along with stronger partnerships. Not only is the United States one of Egypt’s key political and strategic partners, it is also a leading partner in our drive to achieve economic development and fair and lasting peace in the Middle East. But Egypt has its own vision of international relations, one that is based on fundamental choices: the the choice to give primacy to international law over the unilateral use of force; the choice to give the U.N. supremacy over any hegemonic inclinations; the choice to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all States above any single power’s desire to reshape a given region. These are the founding principles behind a vision of international relations that are both fairer, and more balanced.
Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel over 24 years ago, and has respected it scrupulously. Egypt is in a unique position. Under the leadership of President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt has worked hard to make its own peace with Israel a model for other areas of the Mideast conflict. Egypt wants to play a positive role. It is working to ensure that the principles of international law are fully respected in relations between all States in our region, with the aim of achieving a just and lasting peace. We are doing this not only by working with the parties directly concerned, but also with the United States, Russia, Europe, and the United Nations.

T.D.L.: As a key player in the Mideast peace process, alongside the United States and Israel, what are Egypt’s thoughts on how to rekindle the peace talks at this most difficult time?  Destined for all appearances to be part of the Quartet, what role will Egypt play in the peace process? The March 2002 Arab Summit in Beirut reconfirmed an Arab consensus in favor of peace. Could the Saudi peace plan put forward by Crown Prince Abdallah still point the way to a regional compromise on this question?

Egypt is fully convinced that if we truly  want peace, then Israel must withdraw immediately and unconditionally from the occupied territories.
Israel continues to challenge the points already agreed upon at the Madrid and Oslo conferences. Egypt has tried and is still trying to persuade Mr. Sharon’s government that an aggressive security policy will never bring real security – to which Israel has every right, like all other States in the region. To the contrary, finding a way to create an independent Palestinian State is the only way to ensure real security. A policy promoting peace and reconciliation will eventually give rise to security.
The Arab States have voiced their desire for peace in the Middle East. During the Arab Summit in Beirut, Arab heads of State unanimously confirmed their strategic pro-peace stance. I attended the summit, and I can tell you that there was a genuine and determined pro-peace mood behind the scenes at the conference. But it takes two, to make peace. Unfortunately, the headway made in a peace process that started a quarter century ago, when President Sadat took the first steps toward bringing peace to the Middle East, is now being called into question. We are seeing the gulf that separates the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, and their leaders, grow steadily wider.
Egypt wants to play a positive role, focusing on peace and development. We are striving to ensure that the principles of international law are fully respected in relations between the States in our region, with the goal of achieving a just and lasting peace. We are working with the United States, France and Europe, Russia, the United Nations, as well as peacekeeping forces in Israel and around the region. We are working extremely hard to bring the military occupation to an end, and to establish an independent and sovereign Palestinian State alongside Israel. It is vital -absolutely imperative- that we achieve peace, so that we can focus our efforts on economic and social development, prosperity, and well-being, and not only in Egypt but throughout the Middle East and the Mediterranean basin. Paris and Cairo see eye to eye on this score. We must set up a new regional security system, built on measures that boost trust and ensure nonaggression. Let’s not forget that Israel is the only country in the region that possesses nuclear weapons, and that in 1990 President Mubarak put forward an initiative to rid the entire region of weapons of mass destruction. It is high time we put this initiative into action.

T.D.L.: Despite the problems hindering the creation of a Palestinian government, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was named to hold the newly created post of prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, a move that has been fairly well received the world over. What issues would you like to see Prime Minister Abbas assign top priority? Do you think this move reflects a deeper change in the Palestinian leadership, heralding the arrival of a new generation of leaders destined to succeed President Arafat?

The Arab-Israeli conflict has been the main source of instability in the region for several decades. The past three years have been especially tragic. The territories under the control of the Palestinian Authority have been reoccupied. The Israeli Army has stepped up its repression of the Palestinian population, which has no doubt swollen the ranks of those who advocate violence as the only way to gain independence.
Egypt has attempted to break this vicious circle, working along the same lines it has followed since 1977, with the same goal in mind: achieving full peace, in exchange for the end of the occupation. This was confirmed, once again, by the initiative put forward at the Arab Summit in Beirut.
Egypt has steadfastly supported the international community’s efforts to create the conditions necessary for rekindling the peace process. Egypt has given its support to reforms within Palestinian institutions, in particular to the agreement on the nomination of Mahmoud Abbas as prime minister and the creation of the new Palestinian government. Egypt has at the same time encouraged better relations between the various Palestinian factions, so that the violence can be brought to an end.
The Palestinian Authority has appointed a prime minister and laid out an essential new law that designates the council of ministers as the “principle executive tool.” That said, it is completely untrue that this new government is an attempt to replace, or edge out, President Arafat. The president of the Palestinian Authority is, and will remain, the President of the Palestinians. Not only is President Arafat the symbol of the Palestinian struggle for independence, he is also the vital and indispensable spokesman of the Palestinian people.
The creation of a Palestinian government, along with the reforms carried out by the Authority in the financial, administrative and security arenas, are further proof that the Palestinian people and their leaders are firmly committed to building real peace, in accordance with the road map.
The most urgent thing right now is to begin implementing the road map, which addresses the political, security and humanitarian aspects of the peace process. The end goal is to create an independent Palestinian State, while resolving the other problems, most notably the refugee problem. And while the road map calls for both parties to simultaneously perform their obligations, as well as an independent international mechanism to monitor and assess their progress, Israel has yet to fulfill its obligations. In other words, it has still not accepted the roadmap or put an end to its military operations in the occupied territories.
Now, more than ever, the United States, Europe, and the rest of the international community must meet their responsibilities and exert pressure on both parties, with the aim of working together effectively and in good faith to put the road map into action. Without this pressure, or active Israeli cooperation, we risk losing the confidence of the Palestinian people once and for all.

T.D.L.: In light of the differences that surfaced at the February 2003 Arab Summit in Sharm Al-Shaikh, how are prospects for putting together a project for political and economic cooperation that goes beyond the scope of the Arab League’s current free-trade agreement (GAFTA)? What is your country doing to boost its trade ties with other Arab countries? Taking the Muslim Brothers in Egypt as an example, how can the Arab world reaffirm its Muslim identity and still wipe out the Islamic fanaticism that has taken the political scene hostage in many Arab countries?

In a desire to promote greater economic cooperation between Arab States, Egypt was one of the countries behind the creation of the Greater Arab Free Trade Area. In like manner, Egypt opted to join the Agadir process, along with Jordan, Tunisia, and Morocco, with the goal of speeding up the liberalization process, in relation to the Arab zone. This initiative is open to any Arab country that would like to join. The Agadir initiative is a major step toward regional economic integration, in that it brings together for the very first time two countries from the Machrek and two countries from the Maghreb. What’s more, all four countries have signed association agreements with the European Union.
Following the example of other regional economic groupings, most notably the European Union, Arab States have come to realize the importance of strengthening their trade ties and economic cooperation. Few regions can lay claim to the cultural, linguistic, political and religious cohesiveness the Arab States currently enjoy. They have also become aware of the importance of reforming regional structures, especially the Arab League, the living symbol of the Arab nation. We were set to hold a summit in Egypt to discuss reforming Arab economic institutions, but, unfortunately, the events of Sept. 11 prevented the conference from taking place. That said, we expect to go ahead and hold the conference sometime in the very near future.
Egypt has suffered greatly from the terrorist threat, in the economic and financial arenas as well as at the political and social levels. The government has been applying antiterrorist measures for years, to prevent an upsurge in terrorism. But we must show equal concern for the entire Middle East region. As long as the Mideast crisis remains unresolved, as long as there are armed clashes, incarcerations, and settlements, there will continue to be desperate Palestinians. Because they see no other solution, but resorting to violence. As Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Maher El Sayed, has repeated time and again: “We cannot make the reopening of Israeli-Palestinian talks contingent upon a return to complete calm, which only gives veto power to the most extreme elements in both camps. This situation is, in and of itself, explosive.” Secondly, the Western world and the United States appear to have had Islam in their sights ever since the events of Sept. 11th. Arabs and Muslims feel as if they are under siege.

T.D.L.: Egypt is also involved in the Sudan peace process. What can your country do to help bring this civil war to an end? On a broader level, Egypt has strengthened its African ties by participating in the African Union and COMESA. Could you outline Egypt’s plans for helping spur the creation of a united Africa, free of the crossborder, ethnic, and religious problems that continue to plague the continent on a regular basis?

The ties between Egypt and Sudan date far back into our histories, are of great political and economic importance to both countries. After a brief misunderstanding, relations between Sudan and the Arab world – most notably with Egypt – began moving toward normalization in 2000. This was sparked primarily by the opening of the Sudanese political spectrum, led by President Omar Bashir, the return of various political figures who had been exiled, and the lifting of U.N. economic sanctions.
This new openness was crowned by President Bashir’s visits to Egypt on 15 May 2002 and again on 8 April 2003, followed by President Hosni Mubarak’s visit to Khartoum on 30 April 2003. These summit meetings gave us an opportunity to address the thornier points in bilateral relations, and to consider ways to strengthen our ties and push forward the Sudanese peace process.
On this last point, Egypt firmly believes that Sudan must preserve its integrity and territorial unity. It hopes that the Machakos peace talks, between the Sudanese government and SPLM rebels (Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement), will put an end to a conflict that has greatly hindered the development of this great country.
The two presidents also discussed ways to reenergize and strengthen the institutions that unite Egypt and Sudan on the economic and political fronts. To that end, a committee comprised of members of the Egyptian People’s Assembly and its Sudanese counterpart will begin working together with the aim of putting the parliamentary project for the Nile Valley in action.
Egypt and Africa have, of course, built up strong geostrategic, political, cultural and historical ties. Egypt has taken numerous steps in recent years to make African unity a reality, most notably by cooperating with its African partners. These efforts led to the creation of the African Union.
Egypt has stood by its convictions, supporting the African continent since the 1950s in its struggle to free itself from foreign occupation. Along these same lines, Egypt’s diplomatic efforts have helped resolve the bloody conflicts that have ravaged certain African countries. It has championed the cause of peace, so that Africa’s dream of becoming a free, developed and prosperous continent can finally come true. For peace and stability are sine qua non conditions for ensuring lasting development.
In that same spirit, convinced that stronger sub-regional cooperation sparks development at the continental level, Egypt joined COMESA, a sub-regional organization that unites the countries of eastern and southern Africa. Likewise, well aware that the ethnic-religious conflicts and border disputes that have rocked the continent on a regular basis have economic roots, Egypt was one of the founding members of NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development). NEPAD offers clear testimony to Africa’s desire to assume responsibility for its destiny and development, in partnership with the industrialized countries. Egypt is determined to support Africa’s efforts to take its own development in hand.
The African architects of NEPAD want to see Africans themselves put together regional or even intercontinental projects to fight the poverty and famine that has plagued their continent and slowed its development. They are trying to spur the African economy to finally take off, within the globalization process. They want Africa to mobilize its own resources and attract private foreign investments, while respecting the needs and priorities of each and every African, using clearly defined monitoring standards, such as monitoring by peers.
The industrialized G8 countries have voiced public support for this plan, but it still presents a daunting challenge, given the tribulations Africa is going through  right now. The conflicts that continue to ravage the continent are holding this movement in check in several regions. It will take additional effort and real determination on behalf of both partners to overcome this challenge, working in the spirit of NEPAD and following the principle of mutual responsibility.
Egypt and its African partners lay great importance on the French presidency of the G8. The French presidency should give a fresh boost to this initiative, which is the real spearhead of African development. It should also provide concrete answers on how to move ahead with this initiative and how to implement the Africa Action Plan adopted at the G8 summit in Kananaskis. The G8 summit which took place in Evian in June 2003 was an excellent opportunity to reenergize the NEPAD partnership by giving it a clear and powerful boost.

T.D.L.: Bolstered by its close ties with the European Union, what role does Egypt hope to play in the creation of a Euro-Mediterranean cooperation zone, a concept that has strong French backing? What would you like to see accomplished through the Euro-Mediterranean partnership? What kind of impact do you think European enlargement will have on economic ties with the southern shore of the Mediterranean? Could the enlargement process possibly kindle a similar trend in your own region?

Egypt and France represent two key poles in the Mediterranean basin. Both countries have worked hard to bring peace and stability to the Mediterranean region. In 1994, they put forward the initiative to create the Mediterranean Forum, which brings together ten countries on the shores of the Mediterranean to assess and draw up projects for building peace and stability in the region. This cooperation has been continued since 1995 through the Barcelona process, which focuses on its various political, economic and cultural aspects.
Egypt is determined to play a very positive and active role in the Barcelona process, given that it has a population of 65 million and is one of the largest markets in the region. The partnership agreement signed in 2001 between Egypt and the European Union should further facilitate political, economic and commercial cooperation with Europe.
The enlargement of the European Union raises a number of challenges that will have to be studied very closely in the coming years. The 12+15 of the Barcelona process will become 12+25 once Cyprus, Malta, Turkey and the eastern European countries have joined the EU. In fact, this new geopolitical order raises questions about whether the new Europe will take as much political interest in Mediterranean countries, with this new equation. What’s more, making these ten new countries E.U. members, scheduled for 2004, could put their vast agricultural production in direct competition with agricultural exports to Europe from Mediterranean countries outside the E.U. This is why we need to conduct in-depth studies on the impact of enlargement on Euro-Mediterranean trade, and come up with satisfactory solutions to the problems that could well arise once Europe has been enlarged.
The countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean also salute the European Commission’s efforts over the past two years to improve the MEDA program. The program had run into numerous obstacles – caused by the Commission’s own peculiarities – with regard to the funding of several programs for southern countries, including a program to overhaul their industrial sectors. This led the commission to publish a strategic paper, in an attempt to resolve the problems that diminished the effectiveness of the MEDA 1 program.
Finally, it is extremely important for E.U. member countries to do their utmost to make it easier for people to circulate freely within the Euro-Mediterranean space. They can do this by making it easier for citizens from the south to obtain visas, which would make the principle of free trade far more effective in this vast geo-economic zone. This would greatly facilitate business travel and in turn increase the volume of trade between the two shores of the Mediterranean.

T.D.L.: In light of the declarations issued at the last official meetings between France and Egypt, would you comment on our countries’ shared stances on a good number of major international issues, including the situation in the Middle East? What do you think should be done to boost bilateral trade between France and Egypt, which remains relatively weak given the strong historical ties uniting the two countries? Does the inauguration of the French University of Egypt, on 22 October 2002, reflect Egypt’s desire to see the French language and culture play a greater role in the training of its leaders? In what other areas could Franco-Egyptian ties be boosted?

Egyptian relations have never been better. This is because they are based on shared interests and real affinities, on historical as well as geographic facts, and also on the close ties the French and Egyptian peoples have woven over many long centuries. France and Egypt are fated to be partners, in that they share great political affinities as well as economic and strategic interests. They are guided by the same principles and ideas. They represent two vital poles in the Mediterranean basin, and are working to turn this shared sea into a zone of peace, cooperation, and prosperity. Not only is France one of Egypt’s essential political and strategic partners, it is also a key partner in our quest for economic and cultural development.
I am pleased to be able to say that relations between France and Egypt are excellent. This is due to the strong friendship and trust shared by the two countries, and to the fact that France and Egypt share a number of political affinities as well as common goals for bringing peace to the Middle East. They keep up a steady exchange of visits at the official and institutional levels. President Hosni Mubarak always receives a very warm and friendly welcome in France. He has also had the pleasure of welcoming President Jacques Chirac to Egypt on several occasions, most recently in Alexandria just last October, during the inauguration of the Library of Alexandria.
Trade between Egypt and France has lagged far behind the historical, political and cultural exchanges that bind the two countries. The volume of trade currently stands at just over 1.3 billion euros, which broke down in 2002 to one billion euros of French exports and less than 0.3 billion euros of imports.
The international economic slowdown and the events of Sept. 11 have clearly had a negative impact on trade between the two countries. But the future looks quite promising for a considerable increase in trade between our countries. As for Egyptian exports to France, the devaluation of the Egyptian pound will make Egyptian products more competitive and enable them to flow more freely on the international market, on the French market in particular.
Moreover, the Egyptian government has been making a determined effort to promote the export sector since June 2001. It has launched a vast program designed to boost exports, which includes: tax breaks for exports in target sectors; the creation of a fund to finance export assistance programs; the enactment of a new law on export promotion and the creation of special economic zones; a campaign to launch logos for key export products like cotton; and, finally, the restructuring of the Ministry of Foreign Trade.
With regard to French exports, we have also seen major investments in several key sectors that will surely be very promising for bilateral trade. The Gaz de France contract, for instance, will help make Egypt one of France’s biggest gas suppliers, with roughly 10% of its supply portfolio and investments of around 2 billion euros in the export and construction of a liquefaction plant.
There is also the fact that most French exports to Egypt are tied to major projects in sectors that are still expanding in Egypt, such as infrastructures and telecommunications.
In any case, this optimism is also rooted on two essential trends:
– Firstly, Egypt’s desire to open up even further to its partners in the European Union, and to take full advantage of the opportunities created by the partnership agreement.
-Secondly, the great interest French investors have shown recently in taking advantage of the many benefits offered by Egypt as a springboard to the Arab world and Africa.
The opening of the University of Alexandria -a crossroads of intellectual exchange and source of further rapprochement- bears witness that our two peoples are growing steadily closer. The French University of Egypt will welcome its first students this year. This private institution will be a natural continuation for students in French schools (over two million students attending Egyptian public schools study French as their first or second foreign language) who in the past have been tempted to enroll at the American University in Cairo. This new establishment will train trilingual executives (Arab, French, and English) to meet the needs of Egyptian society. The success of this institution will mark a milestone in the history of the French-speaking community.
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