INTERVIEW- Egypt among most important strategic partners: Greek FM

Eman Youssef in Athens , Monday 15 Jan 2024

Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs George Gerapetritis spoke to Ahram Online about the strong ties between Egypt and Greece and strategic nature of the two country’s cooperation.

George Gerapetritis
Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs George Gerapetritis poses for an image before the interview. Photo courtesy of the Greek Ministry of FA


The minister made his remarks ahead of a planned visit to Cairo to meet with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry on Wednesday.

Gerapetritis believes there is ample potential to further deepen cooperation by promoting common interests in shipping, tourism, construction, renewable energy resources, and innovative technologies.

Ahram Online: How would you describe the current bilateral relations between Greece and Egypt? What measures have been taken to enhance this unique relationship?

George Gerapetritis: Over the years, Greece has developed a strategic partnership with Egypt. Greece maintains a historic bond of friendship and cooperation with Egypt and places particular emphasis on further developing and deepening bilateral relations, which are shaped by mutual respect and the desire to live in a calm and prosperous region. 

The 2020 Agreement on the Delimitation of Exclusive Economic Zones is the primary manifestation of the strategic nature of our cooperation. This agreement was the product of a good-faith bilateral negotiation, anchored in international law and especially the Law of the Sea. Both countries have expressed the desire to expand collaboration in all areas of mutual interest and explore new potential ventures in every realm.

Greece attributes great importance to the energy sector, where we have taken concrete initiatives. Undoubtedly GREGY Interconnector is the most emblematic joint energy project. Other partnerships relate to trade and the economy. There are a lot of Greek entrepreneurs now doing business in Egypt. We hope that in the near future, we will welcome a significant number of people from Egypt to work with us, especially in the fields of agriculture and fisheries. As you probably know, we have signed a framework agreement with the government of Egypt on seasonal employment of agricultural workers, in order to facilitate workers from Egypt to come to Greece to work mainly in the field of agriculture

Equally important, the bilateral trade volume has increased, amounting to over two billion dollars. We are working on increasing trade, as well as diversifying our export portfolio. Greek companies have invested in Egypt in various sectors, such as oil and gas exploration, construction, food industry, aluminum production, irrigation system, and banking. 

AO: What will the main issues of discussion be during your visit to Cairo? What is the aim of the visit?

GG: It is my great pleasure and honour to visit Egypt for the second time as Foreign Minister of Greece. Egypt is one of our most important strategic partners. We maintain strong ties and share a common understanding of the broader region. We represent two ancient civilizations and we appreciate each other greatly. During my visit to Cairo, we intend to discuss a broad range of bilateral issues.

The main purpose of my visit here is to exchange views with my Egyptian counterpart on the war in Gaza and the Middle-East crisis. We are in a very alarming regional context. We are profoundly concerned about the situation and the growing tension in the West Bank, the possibility of a crisis spill-over in Lebanon, the peak of tension in the Red Sea, and, above all, the ongoing loss of civilian lives and the humanitarian tragedy. We need to do more to stop this humanitarian catastrophe. Greece tries to be constructive and provide meaningful mediation. 

We truly appreciate that Egypt has been a pillar of stability in the region. Greece, pursuing a foreign policy based on principles, has maintained a consistent stance from the outset of this conflict and immediately put forward a very specific five-point action plan; the condemnation of any form of aggression, the protection of civilians, the creation of humanitarian corridors, the release of hostages, and the convening of an international conference on the settlement of the Middle East issue on the basis of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

Greece aspires to be an honest and reliable interlocutor. We were among the first countries to dispatch humanitarian aid to Gaza. We were honoured to be among the few European countries to participate in the Cairo Peace Summit last October and we participate actively in the shaping of EU’s foreign policy. I personally had the opportunity to travel to Ramallah and then to Jerusalem, delivering messages from Ramallah.

Throughout this entire time, Greece has been in constant communication with the Egyptian government, with which it has been collaborating closely both for the channeling of humanitarian aid to Gaza and for the successful evacuation of Greek and foreign citizens from the Palestinian enclave.

I would like to praise Cairo’s role in securing humanitarian aid to Gaza through Rafah. Without Egypt the international community would not be able to provide relief to Gaza. Thanks to Egypt, the civilians in Gaza have a lifeline. They have food, medications, and necessary supplies. I strongly believe that it is imperative to work together. Greece advocates for a sustainable humanitarian pause to allow a continuous flow of aid and medical care in Gaza and intensified efforts to achieve lasting peace in the region. 

AO: What are current and potential areas of cooperation between Greece and Egypt within the broader regional framework? How might bilateral cooperation promote regional stability and address common challenges?

GG: Greece and Egypt share a common aspiration. We seek to promote and secure peace and security in the Eastern Mediterranean. Indeed, our region is fragile, with war and terrorism, poverty, food crises, and climate change being the primary underlying causes of volatility and uncertainty.

Migratory flows from Northern Africa remain a significant problem. Curbing irregular migration as well as human trafficking is a goal both for Greece and Egypt as well as the European Union. Those mentioned above are the main security challenges of the MENA region, our neighbourhood. The war in the Middle East, the instability in the Sahel region and the unpredictable situation in Libya, fuel concerns about their potential spill over effects in the wider region. 

We highly value Egypt’s stabilizing role and we firmly believe that Egypt and Greece should work towards finding solutions that can bring stability and peace in the area for the sake of the region’s peoples as well as future generations.

At the same time, we do believe that regional cooperation is the only path to the long-term establishment of peace and prosperity in the region. A successful example of regional cooperation is the trilateral scheme among Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt. Its aim is to generate dialogue and find areas of collaboration of common interest such as defence, energy and climate change that lay the foundation for stronger relations. 

AO: Can you inform us about any potential agreements, projects or initiatives that may be on the agenda of your meetings in Cairo?

GG: My visit to Cairo presents a great opportunity to reaffirm our excellent bilateral relations. There is ample potential to further deepen our cooperation by promoting synergies in shipping, tourism, construction, renewable energy resources, and innovative technologies.

When it comes to energy cooperation, we have made significant progress with the GREGY Green Energy Interconnector a flagship project scheduled to transfer, via a submarine cable, green energy from Egypt to mainland Greece, and subsequently to other European countries. It has been chosen as one of the EU projects of Mutual Interest.

What Greece really aspires is to become South-eastern Europe’s principal energy hub. I believe that Greece’s strategic geographic location and the stability of its government position it as the gateway to the European Union for the countries of North Africa, the Middle East, and the Arab world.

I will also briefly mention projects promoting interconnectivity, namely Ports’ connection (Piraeus, Limassol, and Alexandria-Port Said), as well as the Agreement with the Suez Canal Authority and Greek companies for waste recycling. 

AO: Given the importance of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas forum (EMGF), what are the steps taken to enhance energy cooperation between Greece and Egypt?

GG: The EMGF has delivered on regional collaboration — this much is clear by the growing regional trade for energy in the region. There are still resources to be developed and we hope to see these developed for the benefit of the region as a whole. Moreover the energy system is evolving — we are focused on electricity, hydrogen, offshore wind, carbon capture and storage. These are all areas that would benefit from regional collaboration.

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