INTERVIEW: 'Greece has found in Egypt an ideal regional partner': Ambassador Nikolaos Papageorgiou

Eman Youssef, Monday 11 Sep 2023

Ambassador of Greece to Egypt Nikolaos Papageorgiou spoke about the robust Egyptian-Greek cooperation, emphasizing that the exceptional bilateral relations and the strong bonds shared between the two peoples form a solid foundation for advancing collaborative efforts to new heights.

Ambassador Nikolaos Papageorgiou
Ambassador Nikolaos Papageorgiou.

 

"The visit on 3 August of the Greek prime minister, accompanied by the ministers of foreign affairs and national defence, provided both countries with a valuable opportunity to reaffirm the strategic significance of their bilateral relations," Papageorgiou told Ahram Online.

During discussions held between Egypt President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in the North Coast city of Alamein, a wide range of bilateral and regional issues took centre stage, he added.

"Both leaders concurred on the imperative to bolster cooperation and synergies across various domains, encompassing political, economic, trade, energy, tourism, and other sectors. They underscored the need to expedite the implementation of previously signed agreements while actively exploring new avenues of cooperation in every conceivable field," Papageorgiou stated.

Additionally, the two leaders engaged in extensive discussions on regional issues that have an impact, directly or indirectly, on both nations.

Papageorgiou said: "The visit reaffirmed the remarkable alignment of both countries' perspectives on all the topics deliberated, underscoring the profound value they attach to their strategic relationship, which has been nurtured over the years through unwavering dedication and diligent efforts on both sides."

In essence, it was an outstanding visit that showcased the depth of the strategic partnership between the two countries, he noted.

 

Egypt-Greece cooperation
Papageorgiou underscored the enduring strategic relationship between Greece and Egypt, founded on mutual respect and a shared understanding of the challenges confronting the region. Both countries are acutely aware of the roles they play within their broader environments and the network of partnerships they engage in, he said.

Regarding bilateral trade, Greek companies have made significant investments in Egypt across various sectors. These include hydrocarbon exploration, liquid waste management, cement production, aluminum and plastic manufacturing, food and beverage industries. They are also engaged in the collection and recycling of solid and liquid port waste, dredging activities, and certification services for Egyptian agencies and businesses, among others.

Egyptian companies have found a foothold in Greece, primarily in real estate with holdings in residential, tourism, and industrial properties. They are also actively involved in the energy and electricity sectors, contributing to networks, cables, smart energy solutions, and energy production infrastructure, the ambassador added.

This cross-border collaboration demonstrates the diversity and depth of economic ties between the two countries.

"It's highly encouraging to witness the recent growth in our bilateral trade volume, exceeding $2 billion," Ambassador Papageorgiou said.

"Our focus is on achieving a more favourable trade balance and broadening the spectrum of our export offerings. We are actively exploring opportunities in dynamic export categories such as environmental management technologies, building materials, plastic pipes, renewable energy technologies, quality standardized food products, and information and communication technologies, among others."

He continued: "The Greek business community maintains a strong interest in the Egyptian market and economy. They regularly organize visits to Egypt to engage with local counterparts, seek potential partners, and participate in significant international exhibitions hosted within Egypt.

"I consistently encourage them to invest in Egypt, urging them to explore the country comprehensively – given our close proximity – and uncover the various domains and possibilities available. We ask our business leaders not only to view Egypt as a substantial market in its own right but also as a strategic gateway for expanding their operations across Africa, the Middle East, and the Arabic-speaking world," he pointed out.

Agreement on seasonal workers

"The bilateral agreement on seasonal workers signed last November represents a pivotal and, I might add, innovative component of our bilateral cooperation," Ambassador Papageorgiou said.

"This agreement establishes a principled, flexible, and well-coordinated framework that enables Egyptian workers to contribute to the agricultural sector in Greece, ensuring timely harvests for farmers who rely on a dependable workforce.

"A bilateral inter-agency task force has already been established and convened for the first time in Cairo last March. This task force is diligently fine-tuning the provisions of the agreement to align even more closely with our shared objectives.

“It is worth noting that the significance of this agreement was a central topic during discussions between President El-Sisi and Prime Minister Mitsotakis. Both leaders recognized its mutual benefits and saw it as a potential model for similar arrangements in other economic sectors, including construction."

 

GREGY Interconnector
Papageorgiou said the GREGY Green Energy Interconnector is set to harness the potential of renewable energy sources in Egypt. The project involves the transmission of 3 MW of electricity generated from Egyptian renewable sources via a submarine cable connecting Egypt to mainland Greece.

He added that a portion of this electricity will be utilized by Greek households and industries, while the remainder will be redirected to neighbouring European nations.

The project holds strategic significance, as it has garnered consistent support from the Greek government right from its inception. Efforts were made to include it in the EU PCI/PMI lists, and it enjoys robust backing from both the Egyptian government and the European Commission.

Papageorgiou noted that the project was included in the PMI list and is expected to be finalized later in the year. Furthermore, as the project is dedicated to transferring clean energy, it carries substantial environmental importance, aligning with sustainable and eco-friendly energy solutions.

Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum
Since its inception in 2018, upon Egypt’s initiative, the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) has emerged as a valuable platform that has united several Eastern Mediterranean countries.

These nations came together with the shared objective of identifying and leveraging opportunities for energy-related collaborations, the ambassador said.

Papageorgiou highlighted the significance of the EMGF by pointing out several key factors, such as the growing interest from collaborating stakeholders, the stability and economic development fostered through cooperation among participating nations, and the tangible benefits of this initiative. Moreover, he said the substantial progress achieved thus far demonstrates that the EMGF has firmly established itself within the region's energy landscape.

EEZ agreement
“This agreement is the result of bilateral negotiations held in good faith and is firmly anchored in international law. It was concluded in accordance with the law of the sea, the UNCLOS,” the ambassador pointed out.

“By virtue of this agreement, our two countries will be in a position to take advantage of their natural resources. This agreement is a major and deeply valued achievement,” he stressed.

 

EU-Egypt relations
Ambassador Papageorgiou emphasized that the relationship between the European Union (EU) and Egypt holds immense significance that extends beyond the frameworks of Euro-Mediterranean and Middle East and North Africa regions. The EU places high value on these relations and actively collaborates with Egypt to harness synergies that benefit both sides.

Through a structured, ongoing, and robust cooperation, which is exemplified by but not limited to the Association Agreement and the Partnership Priorities, the EU and Egypt have identified shared concerns and interests across various domains. This collaboration encompasses areas such as energy and migration, among others, and continues to evolve to address new challenges and changes in the international landscape.

Papageorgiou underscored Egypt's status as a close and valued partner of the EU. This partnership is characterized by open and constructive dialogues on matters of mutual interest. Greece, in particular, has consistently highlighted and staunchly advocated for the pivotal importance of the EU-Egypt relationship.

 

Egypt-Greece-Cyprus collaboration
“It is a blessing these three countries, all of them in the heart of the Eastern Mediterranean, have similar views and approaches on a number of issues, as well as a shared perception on how best to interact between them or multilaterally, in support of stability in our broader region,” the ambassador noted.

This trilateral cooperation is an exemplary format of regional dialogue, including areas such as energy and electricity connectivity, tourism, environment protection and sustainable development, small and medium enterprises, defence, and diasporas.

“The prosperity of our peoples is a never-ending pursuit. Any form of cooperation promoted through this trilateral format offers added value in this respect.”

 

Immigration issues
 “Greece is at the crossroads of migratory flows. My country’s priority has always been to protect its borders, which are also the EU’s borders, while also assisting those who risk their lives at sea,” he added.

Close cooperation aimed at depriving traffickers of their nefarious business is of pivotal importance key so that vulnerable people do not board vessels or rotten boats to embark on their dangerous journey.

 

Greece’s challenges
“Greece is deeply involved in cooperating with countries from its neighbourhood and broader region, while exploring ways to develop cooperation and interaction with all nations with no exception,” Papageorgiou stated.

“At the same time, economic sustainability and growth remain a top priorities for Greece.”

Greece shares many challenges with its European Union (EU) partners, NATO allies, and neighbouring countries. Among these challenges, stability and security in the broader region are vital prerequisites. A stable and secure environment fosters cooperation among regional populations, which, in turn, contributes to their shared prosperity, he said.

The issue of irregular migration is a significant challenge faced by Greece and many others, highlighting the need for comprehensive solutions and international collaboration.

Another pressing concern is climate change, a global issue that necessitates concerted global action. Greece's immediate neighbourhood is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, as evidenced by increasingly frequent periods of drought, heat waves, and devastating wildfires. Greece has experienced the unfortunate consequences of these events firsthand, particularly during the recent summer, which saw both catastrophic wildfires and floods.

 

 Regional stability
Ambassador Papageorgiou acknowledged Egypt's pivotal role as a “fundamentally important country in the Arab world, the Mediterranean Sea area, and Africa.”

He noted that “Egypt conducts its policies with a deep understanding of its various international roles, guided by principles of moderation, a commitment to regional stability, and a strong adherence to international law in its interactions with other nations.

“Greece has found in Egypt an ideal regional partner, one that aligns closely with Greece's own assessment of risks, challenges, and priorities within their shared neighbourhood. The strong and strategic nature of their relations is not coincidental but rather the result of the alignment of their values and perspectives.”

Ambassador Papageorgiou underscored the mutual respect and full awareness that Greece and Egypt have for each other's contributions to the regional equation. This growing strategic relationship, as he described it, serves as “a pillar of stability that has a positive impact not only within their immediate region but also on a broader scale throughout the neighbourhood.”

 

Papageorgiou’s experience in Egypt
Papageorgiou conveyed the profound sentiment he holds for Egypt, describing it as "fascinating." He explained that “Egypt holds a special place in the hearts of Greeks, extending beyond mere geographical proximity, a spot on the map, or a popular tourist destination.”

While his role as a diplomat keeps him busy with daily responsibilities, Ambassador Papageorgiou emphasized that there is “a deep and intangible connection, an innate affinity between the two nations.

“This affinity is a result of centuries of historical closeness and interaction, creating a bond that seems almost unbreakable.”

 

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