EU reiterates its support for Egypt’s water security

Ahram Online , Tuesday 23 Jan 2024

The European Union reiterated on Tuesday its support for Egypt’s water security, recognizing the North African nation’s heavy reliance on the Nile River amid its water scarcity.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry leads Egypt's delegation at the 10th EU-Egypt Association Council meeting in the Belgian capital Brussels, 23 January 2024. Photo: Egyptian Foreign Ministry


Egypt, one of the most water-scarce countries in the world, needs 114 billion cubic metres (bcm) annually. However, it receives an average of 60 bcm only, mainly from the River Nile.

The Egyptian government, as a result, has launched a host of ventures to rationalize water use, including wastewater treatment and seawater desalination. Some of these projects have already been carried out in partnership with the EU.

This also comes amid a long-standing dispute caused by the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam that Addis Ababa has built since 2011 on the Blue Nile, one of the River Nile’s two main tributaries. Egypt fears the dam would harm its water supply, especially amid Ethiopia’s refusal to sign a binding deal on the filling and operation rules for the dam.

On Tuesday, the EU reemphasized the necessity to comply with international law, according to a joint statement issued by the 27-member body with Egypt following the conclusion of the 10th EU-Egypt Association Council meeting.

The joint statement noted that Egypt and the EU further agreed on areas of cooperation on bilateral, regional, and international levels in the water domain under the Joint Declaration on an Egypt-EU Water partnership—which was signed in December.

Red Sea crisis

Commenting on the spillover of the Gaza war into the Red Sea, Egypt and the EU called for preserving navigational rights and freedoms in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea per the international Law of Sea.

The navigation security in the crucial maritime route has grabbed global attention recently amid the Houthi attacks on Israel-linked vessels passing close to the strategic Bab Al-Mandeb Strait in the sea and the US-UK counterstrikes.

Houthi attacks, which come in solidarity with Palestinians amid Israel’s more than three-month-long war on Gaza, have led several shipping companies to suspend all journeys through the Red Sea, prompting global concerns over a potential global commerce disruption.

War on Gaza

Additionally, Egypt and the EU exchanged views over the latest regional and international developments, most notably the current situation in the Gaza Strip, where Israel’s war has 25,490 Palestinians, most of whom are women and children and wounded 63,354 others.

According to the statement, both sides vowed to continue to work together to foster stability, peace and security in the Middle East, the Mediterranean and Africa.

Egypt and the EU also voiced their concern over the “disastrous” humanitarian situation in Gaza, urging maximum restraint and the protection of civilians in accordance with the International Humanitarian Law.

The two sides stressed the need to ensure “the immediate, sustainable and unconditional entry of humanitarian and medical aid” to the war-torn Strip, reiterating their rejection of the forced displacement of the Palestinians.

“The EU and Egypt … affirmed their strong rejection of any form of individual or collective displacement, forced or otherwise, of Palestinians from any part of the occupied territory, including the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem,” read the statement.

The statement also underlined the deteriorated situation in the West Bank – where “the settler violence and settlement expansion have reached record levels” as many Palestinian communities have been forcibly evicted in a violation of international law

Egypt called for an immediate ceasefire while the EU stressed the urgency of humanitarian pauses, noted the statement.

Both parties reiterated that the only path to a just and comprehensive resolution of the conflict in the Middle East is the two-state solution, that ends the Israeli occupation and leads to the establishment of an independent Palestinian State, over the June 4th 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The 10th EU-Egypt Association Council meeting took place in the Belgian capital Brussels and was co-chaired by Egypt's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell.

The meeting marked the 20th anniversary since the Egypt-EU Association Agreement entered into force in 2004.

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