Egypt's parliament concludes five-year term, approves Mediterranean Gas Forum

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 15 Dec 2020

Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal announced the end of parliament's five-year term on Tuesday

A file photo of Egypt's Parliament (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's House of Representatives concluded on Tuesday its five-year term after completing six sessions since parliament held its first plenary session on 10 January 2016.

"Today I declare the end of the sixth parliamentary session in line with Article 274 of the House's internal bylaws," parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal told MPs.

The speaker's decision comes after a two-stage parliamentary election was concluded on 8 December. A newly-elected House is expected to convene after 9 January 2021.

"I congratulate the Egyptian state for concluding parliamentary elections in a very successful way, and this shows that Egypt has become very stable in political terms and on the road of achieving development," speaker Abdel-Aal said.

"Let me also congratulate those who have won seats in this election, and let me tell them that you have a lot of burdens and responsibilities ahead of you in the coming period," said Abdel-Aal, also telling those who failed to win seats that "anyway, we are all Egyptian citizens in one nation and we can serve Egypt anywhere."

The three-month election was dominated by the pro-government Mostaqbal Watan (Future of a Homeland) Party, which secured 314 seats (52 percent), from 57 (8 percent) in 2015, in the 596-seat parliament.

Mostaqbal Watan is also the dominant force in the newly-created 300-seat Senate, securing 147 seats (50 percent).

In their final sitting on Tuesday, MPs approved the charter of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum. The charter, which has been ratified by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, was signed in Cairo on 22 September 2020.

Parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal told MPs that the forum aims to bring the major producers and exporters of natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean region into one forum.

"It is a very important step for the Eastern Mediterranean countries and a big win for Egypt in particular," said Abdel-Aal, also noting that "the fact that Cairo was selected to host the headquarters of the forum will turn Egypt into the region's major hub for natural gas producers and exporters."

According to the charter, the major objectives of the forum are to preserve the natural gas resources of members and guarantee that they will be used for achieving the public interest of their countries.

"The charter also seeks to kick off an organised dialogue between the forum's members on natural gas issues and lay out the policies and programmes necessary in this respect," said a report by the legislative and constitutional affairs committee, adding that "the charter will also make sure that there is a good investment of the natural gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean region at the present and in the future."

Besides, the report said, the charter aims to create a kind of sustainable partnership between the forum's members and help create an international market for natural gas in way that will guarantee meeting the needs of consumers.

The members of the forum are Egypt, Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Parliament also approved an Egypt-Russia economic and military cooperation agreement signed in Sochi in October 2018.

The 10-year deal, signed in Sochi on 17 October 2018, aims to reinforce cooperation between Egypt and Russia in the economic, investment, political and military areas. The agreement, once endorsed by the parliaments of the two countries, states that the two countries will conduct a strategic dialogue on military cooperation and that senior officials will exchange visits on a regular basis to discuss mutual interests.

Meanwhile, speaker Abdel-Aal has referred three foreign agreements to the House's legislative and constitutional affairs committee to be revised. Abdel-Aal said the committee will make sure that the agreements do not contravene the constitution.

Topping the list is a $113 million assistant grant agreement between Egypt and the United States on "Economic Governance for Development." The agreement is aimed at improving the performance of economic courts in terms of reinforcing transparency, empowering women, and supporting marginalised communities.

Next is a loan agreement between the National Tunnels Authority and JP Morgan Limited Europe and the London-based JP Morgan Chase NA. The agreement, signed on 13 August 2020, states that the two JP Morgan banks will provide a loan of 1.885 billion euros to the National Tunnels Authority to help fund the construction of the two lines of the monorail trains in the New Administrative Capital and 6 October City.

The third agreement is on Egypt's $2 million subscription to the African Development Fund.

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