INTERVIEW: Egypt-Greece economic, investment cooperation gaining momentum - Greek deputy FM

Eman Youssef in Athens , Thursday 28 Jul 2022

Bilateral economic and investment cooperation between Egypt and Greece is developing momentum, according to Greek Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Kostas Fragogiannis in an interview with Ahram Online.

Kostas Fragogiannis
Ahram Online interviewing Greek Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Kostas Fragogiannis (Right).


Fragogiannis, who was born in 1959, has greatly contributed to reforms and legislation pertaining to the Greek ministry’s restructuring on issues of economic diplomacy. He is dedicated to further enhancing Greece’s bilateral relations with Balkan and Eastern European countries, the USA, Germany and all Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries.

According to Fragogiannis, there is indeed strong cooperation with Egypt in various fields, including construction, design and technical consulting. “In my opinion, the future lays in collaborations in the field of energy and the environment. Besides collaboration on natural gas projects, there is also great potential for synergies in the field of solid and liquid waste management,” the deputy foreign minister said.

Port and shipping cooperation is another field to work on, with the expansion and establishment of regular shipping links for the movement of products to and from Egypt, he said.

“Tourism and ways to increase tourist flows, let us say by joint organisation of cruises, also have great potential. The same goes for cooperation in the field of innovation and start-ups in order to develop new technologies for agriculture and food security.”

Regarding Egypt’s current achievements such as mega projects, new cities and economic reforms, Fragogiannis offered assurances that Egypt is the only country in the whole MENA region that has maintained a positive growth rate, despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic.

This is a result of Egypt’s economic reforms that started since 2016, he noted.

“The country’s turn to improving fiscal management, boosting spending in social protection and human resources development and prioritising crucial economic fields such as energy and information and communication technologies (ICT), are all very welcome developments that we follow with great interest,” he said.

“Besides, the prosperity of all our neighbours and allies can only be of benefit to us all.”

Regarding the trilateral Egypt-Greece-Cyprus summit, he offered assurances that the long-standing ties of friendship and the solid relations between the three countries have contributed to the establishment of one of the most advanced and active cooperation schemes in our region, a model of productive and multilevel cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean area.

Since the first summit in 2014, nine have been held and agreements have been signed in a wide range of areas. “Our joint actions are carried out in various fields, from tourism and small and medium enterprises, to energy and environmental protection. The progress is substantial and continuous, despite the various obstacles and challenges we have faced.”

“During our last summit in Athens, which was held on the 19th of October in 2021, we signed a tripartite memorandum of understanding (MoU) on electricity interconnection cooperation, expanding our partnership in the field of power generation and distribution.”

According to Fragogiannis, the signed MoU on electricity interconnection between Egypt and Greece is a project of a strategic importance, because it promotes energy security and prosperity, especially in current times when the energy crisis is affecting the whole world. The project is part of Greece’s focus on an energy policy that pursues and secures the maximisation of energy security and the diversification of sources and routes.

The project envisages the electrical interconnection of the Egyptian and the Greek system in order to transfer 100 percent clean energy produced by high capacity renewable energy in Egypt, he said.

“The project contributes to tackling both climate change and the greenhouse effect through the use of clean and renewable energy. Part of the transmitted energy will be consumed in Greece, part will be used to produce green hydrogen and part will be transported to Europe. Among its other benefits, the electrical interconnection also strengthens the infrastructure of the electricity networks of Egypt and Greece,” the deputy minister said.

As for the latest signed agreements and trade cooperation progress between Greece and Egypt, Fragogiannis said that mirroring the excellent state of our political relations, trade cooperation of Greece and Egypt is also well-established.

"We also look into expanding our cooperation in new sectors. Specifically, we are developing cooperation in the sector of power generation and distribution, aiming at enhancing our energy security and diversifying our energy sources,” he said.

In the past year, Greece and Egypt signed two MoUs of great importance in the field of energy cooperation – one on the connection of the two countries’ electricity networks and another on cooperation in the field of natural gas.

“Several Greek ship-owners have already initiated some LNG shipments from Egypt to our country, placing Egypt in the index of our LNG suppliers,” he noted.

Furthermore, on 26 January, Egypt’s Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone) and the Thessaloniki Port Authority (ThPA) signed an agreement that is expected to contribute to the development of international trade and the increase business activities between Asia and Europe, Fragogiannis said.

Just this month, Greece and Egypt signed two bilateral legal texts, the deputy foreign minister said.

On 16 June, Export Credit Greece, the agency tending to Greek exporter’s needs by providing them with export credit insurance and financial and consulting services, signed an MoU on cooperation with Egypt’s Export Credit Guarantee Co., with the aim of establishing the cooperation framework to support and encourage bilateral trade and investment.

On 26 June, an agreement was signed to connect the two countries by extending a branch of a major submarine cable system, which is currently being laid across the Mediterranean Sea. The agreement aims to intensify cooperation in the field of communication and IT and serve the increasing data traffic between Africa, Asia and Europe.

“We are developing cooperation with Egypt in a wide range of fields; we are working together in cruise tourism, through the exchange of valuable know-how and best practices, as well as in environmental protection and combatting the consequences of climate change. I would like to once again stress Greek support for Egypt as venue for [the UN Climate Change Conference 2022] (COP27), in the coming November,” he said.

Furthermore, representatives of the Greek food industry, organised by Enterprise Greece, will be taking part in the prestigious international exhibition titled “Food Africa Cairo”, which will be held in Cairo from 5-7 December, according to Fragogiannis.

“In addition to our bilateral cooperation activities, we are also looking forward to the advancement of our trilateral cooperation, with the next trilateral summit, taking place in Egypt, in the second half of 2022.”

In 2021, bilateral trade amounted to a significant €1.7 billion, increasing 49.5 percent compared to the same period in 2020, according to him. However, he says, there is always room and perspective for new economic cooperation opportunities.

According to the latest statistical data available, the value of Greek exports to Egypt followed a declining trend in 2021, mainly because of the decrease in exports in petroleum products and their derivatives, which constitute half of Greek exports to Egypt.

“Greece’s main goal is to diversify our export portfolio and reduce the dependence on petroleum products, with a focus on increasing the share of the food industry, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and services (construction, tourism, energy and RES and ICT),” the deputy minister said.

According to the latest data from the Bank of Greece for 2020, direct investments from Greece to Egypt amounted to €81 million and are mainly in cement, oil, aluminium, construction materials, food, banking services, maritime and air transport, education services, information technology and the paper industry. The amount of direct investments from Egypt to Greece is estimated to €24 million and mainly concerns real estate.

During 2021, several Greek business and investment groups showed active interest in the Egyptian market, paying on-site visits and seeking the best ways to stabilise or expand their operations. As for the Egyptian side, there is strong interest in the real estate market (via the Golden Visa Program), as well as in the exploitation-management of tourist real estate and hotel units. There is also a developing interest in sectors of the Greek industry.

In fact, he says, there are ongoing discussions about planning a visit to Egypt with a business delegation to explore ways of expanding and strengthening economic cooperation.

Fragogiannis also said that the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum is an important initiative undertaken by Egypt, which Greece welcomed from the beginning, since it serves the collective effort to create a regional gas market in the southeast Mediterranean.

“It is worth noting that the EU has acknowledged the significant role of the Eastern Mediterranean countries in the diversification of gas routes and suppliers,” he said, adding that the EMGF provides an excellent example of how the participating countries are using energy as a promoter for peace and cooperation and not as a cause for conflict in a troubled region.

Every country is invited to join under the condition of total respect of international law, he said.

“We fully welcome any cooperation with Egypt both at a bilateral and at an international level and in this respect we look forward to working closely with Egypt during the upcoming COP27 summit,” he said.

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