Belgium’s PM hails Egypt’s efforts to empower women, cement freedom of religion

Ahram Online , Thursday 17 Feb 2022

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo hailed Egypt’s efforts in cementing tolerance, freedom of religion and acceptance of others in a meeting on Thursday with President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in Brussels.

Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi  Alexander De Croo
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi pose for an image with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo before their meeting on Thursday 17 February, 2022. Photo courtesy of Egyptian Presidential spokesman Facebook page.

De Croo praised Egypt’s efforts to counter extremist thought and the launch of the Egyptian National Strategy for Human Rights last September, Egyptian Presidential Spokesman Bassam Rady said.

El-Sisi has embarked on his first visit to Brussels as president where he attended the sixth European Union – African Union Summit on 17-18 February and met with EU leaders and Belgian businessmen.

The EU-AU summit addresses key topics, including climate change, energy and vaccine production and seeks to ensure renewed and deeper partnership between AU and EU based on trust and clear understanding of shared interests.

During his meeting with De Croo, El-Sisi expressed hope that the EU-AU summit will help foster partnership between Europe and Africa, building on the historic foundation laid by Egypt when they hosted the first EU-AU Summit in 2000.

The EU-AU Summit was established in April 2000, when it was held for the first time in Cairo under the auspices of the Organisation of African Unity (now the AU) and the EU, resulting in a plan of action being adopted.

The summit aims to set political priorities between the two sides and address current and persistent challenges.

Fostering Egypt-Belgium relations

De Croo hailed Egypt’s developmental achievements and national megaprojects, saying they helped encourage Belgian companies to work in Egypt and benefit from promising investment opportunities.

El-Sisi affirmed Egypt’s keenness to develop bilateral relations with Brussels in light of the two countries’ historic relations.

El-Sisi and De Croo discussed issues of bilateral relations between the two countries in all fields, including port management, renewable energy and the green transition.

The president highlighted Egypt’s infrastructure development over the past seven years and effective energy cooperation and partnership with neighbouring countries, including Europe in terms of production, linkage and distribution.

De Croo affirmed his keenness to foster cooperation and partnership with Egypt and encourage Belgian companies to boost their work in Egypt.

El-Sisi and De Croo discussed a number of regional files of mutual concern, the spokesman said, adding that the Belgian PM was keen to learn about El-Sisi’s vision regarding the political issues in Africa, Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean.

Meetings on the EU-AU Summit’s sidelines

On the sidelines of the EU-AU Summit, El-Sisi met with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. El-Sisi hailed Greece’s stances towards Egypt on the bilateral level as well as within the framework of the European Union, saying they reflect the firm, historic Egyptian-Greek relations.

Mitsotakis affirmed Greece’s keenness to continue deepening relations with Egypt in light of the Egyptian role in enhancing mechanisms of joint work in the face of challenges facing the Mediterranean region.

El-Sisi and Mitsotakis also discussed regional and international issues of mutual concern.

The Egyptian president also held discussions with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on the sidelines of the summit on Thursday.

El-Sisi also met with President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, where they discussed cooperation in combating the irregular migration, extremist ideologies and terrorism.

During the Thursday meeting, Leyen said Egypt is a key strategic partner to the EU, stressing the union's keenness to continue to develop cooperation ties with Egypt at various levels given that the North African country acts as a fulcrum in the region.

In a tweet, Leyen said she discussed how to strengthen EU-Egypt relations, including climate as well as economic opportunities, regional stability and human rights.

This comes as Egypt is scheduled to host the UN Climate Change Conference 2022 (COP27) in November this year in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh.

“Egypt, as COP27 chair, will be critical for the global success on fighting climate change,” Leyen said.

El-Sisi also met with European Council President Charles Michel on Wednesday, where they agreed on the necessity of enhancing channels of consultation on Libya.

During the meeting, El-Sisi and Michel expressed satisfaction with the institutional cooperation between Egypt and the EU at the political, economic and developmental levels.

On Wednesday, Belgium's King Philippe received El-Sisi at the Royal Palace of Brussels, where he lauded Egypt’s pivotal role in consolidating stability in the Middle East and Africa.

King Philippe praised Egypt’s efforts to combat irregular migration and terrorism, achieve coexistence between religions, and support peaceful solutions to the ongoing crises in the region, Presidential Spokesman Bassam Rady said.

Egypt’s efforts to combat terrorist groups over the past years have contributed to achieving security and stability in the region as well as Europe, the king said.

El-Sisi also met today with the executive directors of a number of Belgian companies to discuss advancing cooperation in the economic, commercial and investment spheres.

The president discussed cooperation in green hydrogen production for power generation in a meeting with the CEOs of DEME Group, Port of Antwerp company, and Fluxys.

CEO Jean-Luc Maurange of John Cockerill Defence also met with El-Sisi, where he highlighted the company’s keenness to cooperate with Egypt, especially in light of the country’s vital role in ensuring stability and security in the Middle East, the eastern Mediterranean and Africa.

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