In this photo provided by the Egyptian Presidency Media Office, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, right, meets with his Croatian counterpart Zoran Milanovic at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. AP
On 1 January, Croatia became the 27th country to join Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone, which means abolishing border checks at the dozens of border crossings in Europe.
Croatia also switched to the euro currency and joined members of the euro area’s central banking system, becoming a fully integrated EU member 10 years after it had joined the bloc in 2013.
During the presser, El-Sisi stressed that the fact that Croatia has become one of the EU’s southern gates can contribute to boosting trade and enhancing energy security in central and southern Europe.
El-Sisi affirmed the need to boost economic cooperation and trade between the two countries, saying they do not commensurate with the level of the special political relations between the two countries.
El-Sisi said he also discussed cooperation between Egypt and Croatia in the energy field, encouraging Croatian companies to work and invest in Egypt in this area.
The president reviewed Egypt's remarkable progress in energy production, including through new gas discoveries in the East Mediterranean zone as well as the establishment of the Cairo-based East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF).
El-Sisi also shed light on efforts to localise the green hydrogen industry and boost the renewable energy sector, including by establishing solar plants in Benban Solar Park in Aswan.
In addition, Egypt has established massive wind farms in some areas, including in Gabal El-Zeit area, El-Sisi noted.
The Croatian side was invited to establish industrial zones in Egypt to benefit from the country’s free and preferential trade agreements with Arab and African countries.
“This should facilitate the access of Croatian products into the markets of these countries, with a competitive advantage,” the president stressed.
Trade between Egypt and Croatia hiked to $203.9 million in the first 10 months of 2022, up from $106.8 million during the same period in 2021, Egypt's Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) reported on Monday.
Croatian investments in Egypt rose to $2.9 million in the fiscal year 2020/2021, up by 26.1 percent from the previous fiscal year, according to CAPMAS.
The Croatian president said his country is willing to cooperate with Egypt in a number of fields, including tourism and military industries.
He also voiced Croatia’s support to Egypt amid the challenges facing the country.
Milanovic said Egypt has managed to maintain its stability and protect the nation in the wake of the Arab Spring that destroyed Arab communities.
He stressed that Egypt’s stability is a matter of importance to Croatia and the EU.
Coordination on int’l issues
The Egyptian president expressed appreciation for Croatia’s supportive stance to Egypt in a number of pivotal issues, on top of which is the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) file.
Furthermore, El-Sisi praised Croatia’s support to Egypt in the international community, particularly in the EU.
Discussions with Milanovic addressed a number of regional and international issues of mutual concern across the East Mediterranean region, especially the Palestinian cause and developments in Libya, El-Sisi said.
The presidents also discussed a number of issues in eastern and southern Europe, the current international crises, as well as irregular migration, El-Sisi said, adding that he reviewed Egypt’s efforts in this regard.
El-Sisi said they also affirmed the importance of intensifying cooperation between Egypt and the relevant EU institutions to support Egypt's efforts in the irregular migration file.
Condolences to Turkey, Syria
Both presidents began their speeches by extending condolences to Turkey and Syria over the deadly earthquake that hit the two countries early on Monday.
El-Sisi reiterated Egypt’s full readiness to provide assistance to the two countries to face the repercussions of the deadly quake, wishing the injured a speedy recovery.
"I express my sincere condolences to the people of Syria and Turkey and the families of the victims of this devastating earthquake that struck the East Mediterranean region," El-Sisi said during the presser.
“I emphasise Egypt’s full solidarity with the Syrian and Turkish peoples and our readiness to provide help to face the impacts of this earthquake."
A devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck near the Turkish city of Gaziantep -- about 40 kilometres from the Syrian border -- in the early hours of the day, toppling hundreds of buildings and killing hundreds.
Earlier on Monday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that Egypt is ready to provide assistance to face the horrifying impacts of the deadly earthquake that struck both Turkey and Syria as well as a number of East Mediterranean countries.
Residents of Egypt, as far as Cairo – 963 kilometres southwest of Gaziantep – felt seven aftershocks of the quake, according to Gad El-Qadi, chairman of the National Research Institute of Astronomy and Geophysics.
Milanovic arrived earlier this week in Egypt in an official visit from 4 to 7 February.
On Sunday, Milanovic visited the Croatian memorial cemetery of World War II refugees at El-Shatt in Sinai, where he laid a wreath.
The Croatian president also held talks on furthering economic and tourism cooperation with Egypt in a meeting with Chairman of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) Osama Rabie in Ismailia governorate.
Milanovic is set to hold separate meetings with Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly and Speaker of the House of Representatives Hanafy Gebaly on Tuesday, according to the Croatian presidency website.