An elephant, a lion, a tiger and a dove were the images that Egyptians say come to their minds when they think of the European Union (EU), according to a recent EU conducted poll.
Those are the animals that Egyptians would associate with power and peace on the one and hand and clumsiness and weakness on the other hand.
And according to an EU press release, this poll was conducted as part of a project that aims to generate better information about awareness, understanding and perception of the European Union and the role it plays in countries that are members of the New Neighbourhood Initiative – an association agreement for development and democracy signed between the EU and its southern neighbors.
Conducted on several hundred Egyptian public opinion leaders, the poll finds that "not only did Egyptians feel their country had good relations with the EU, they wanted the EU to play a more active role, especially on economic issue".
The EU is becoming more visible to the public through the increased volume of Egypt-EU relations, suggested an Egyptian diplomat. "We have increasing political exchanges with European officials – not just of the EU but also with the member states; the president himself is giving more attention to his consultation with European leaders, and as a result the average Egyptian gets to learn more about Europe through TV and newspapers," he explained.
According to a Cairo-based European diplomat, the European embassies in Cairo are making more effort to win greater visiblity in the country. "We go to the public and tell them we are working on this and that project so that Egyptians would know what we offer".
This said, there seems still to be a significant gap between the wider awareness of Europe and the US. According to the media secretary of one of the most established European cultural centers in Egypt the Egyptian public is still more tuned to US culture: American movie stars are very well known to the Egyptian public as opposed to the European stars.
During the recent Cairo Film Festival it was the presence of American star Richard Gere that caused the greatest sensation among the Egyptian audience, rather than that of the French cinema star Juliette Binoche, noted Ahmed Farouk, the cinema editor of a Cairo daily.
"This is not to say that Gere is more important than Binoche – not at all and it could be the opposite, but unlike the wide appeal of American films to Egyptian audiences, European films get very little attention," said Farouk.
And according to another Egyptian diplomat, at the end of the day the US counts more for Egypt "generally". For example, he says, the Egyptian government is more disturbed by criticism coming from Washington on internal Egyptian affairs than it is when the criticism comes from Brussels or any other European capital.