INTERVIEW: Latvia is a trusted EU partner to Egypt - Ambassador Razāns

Ghada Al-Sharkawy , Monday 6 May 2024

Ahram Online spoke to the Latvian Ambassador to Cairo Andris Razāns about bilateral relations, opportunities for cooperation, and the extent of compatibility and viewpoints between the two countries

Andris Raz ns
Latvian Ambassador to Cairo Andris Razāns

 

Diplomatic relations between Lativa and Egypt date back to 1992. Since Latvia opened its embassy in Egypt in 2007, it has played a role in strengthening political, economic, commercial, educational and cultural relations between the two countries.

Ahram Online: How do you evaluate the bilateral relations between Egypt and Latvia? What are the prospects for these relations?
 
Andris Razāns: I would describe these relations as very good and pragmatic. Although our two countries are situated in two different geographic regions, Latvia on the shores of the Baltic Sea in North of Europe, and Egypt in the MENA region connecting the Mediterranean and the Red Seas, we are united in our shared interest to strengthen rules-based international order. That is the basis for global peace and prosperity.

The history of Latvia as a free and sovereign member of the international community lasts more than a century, including the period under the Soviet occupation, which was not recognized by the majority of the global community. During this time, we learned the hard way about the dysfunctionality of the rules-based international order caused by WWII.
 
That is why today, Latvia as a member of the United Nations strongly defends international order based on rules and clear principles for everyone. Egypt is a very good partner for Latvia in our common endeavour to achieve this goal.
 
I am very glad to see that both countries seek to strengthen their political, economic, cultural and educational ties. What I see is that we have a very good untapped potential for scaling up the intensity of our ties.

AO: What are the areas of cooperation between the two countries? What are the developments of this cooperation, especially in information technology, communications, tourism, and education?
 
AR: Let me start with tourism. Egypt has become an excellent winter tourism destination for many Latvian travellers. In season there are constant direct charter flights between the airports of Riga in Latvia and Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada on the Red Sea. The resorts of Egypt are well known in Latvia for their very good service quality, hospitality, and climate conditions.  
 
Cooperation opportunities in areas of the ICT sector are good and promising. Latvia has a strong ICT sector with well-established institutes, a solid industry legacy and tradition, and a strong education in mathematics and physics. The ICT ecosystem is thriving. So, it is very natural that Latvia is also looking forward towards strengthening cooperation with Egypt, to share the reform experience, especially in digital transformation and data.
 
AO: What is the fastest-growing sector in Latvia?

AR: ICT contributes to nine percent of total product exports and ICT services 14.5 percent of total service exports. Latvia is above the EU average in using digital government services (85 percent of the population) and women's participation in ICT (23 percent). Main ICT services are AI (including language technologies and image processing), e-government solutions, 5G, data centres, data transmission technologies, cybersecurity and fintech.  
 
Latvia is also known to be the 5G testing site (Latvia hosts 5G Ecosystem Forum 5G Techritory – one of the world’s leading 5G technology events). We have a proud history of electrical engineering and the electronics industry. Companies in Latvia manufacture products such as advanced acoustic systems and related accessories, wireless data transmission equipment, other telecommunications systems, industrial optics, nuclear electronics, electronics control, and monitoring devices used in many industrial and scientific applications. For example 5G routers, world-class drones (military, surveillance to heavy lifting drowns, aerial surveys and aerial photogrammetry).
 
Latvia`s X-Infotech participated in the Family Card project, a subsidized food card for subsidy receivers in Egypt. Another software banking solutions company TietoEvry have had projects with Egyptian Post. Our company MikroTik exports world-class internet routers to Egypt.
 
Cooperation within the ICT sector provides good cooperation opportunities in education. We are exploring those.  
 
AO: To what extent do the two countries' views agree on international issues, especially Ukraine, Libya and Gaza?
 
AR: I think both countries have common views on these and other international issues. Sure, there are differences as well. That is understandable. But to me the most important unifying element of both opinions as I see it is that both countries strongly defend the UN-established rules-based international order that is critical to solving these and other highly explosive international tragedies.

AO: What is the volume of trade cooperation between the two countries and the aspects of this cooperation? What about its prospects? What are the investment areas available in both countries?
 
AR: The bilateral trade with Egypt is within €50-75 million annually. Latvia’s two main export products to Egypt are timber (sawn wood) and grains (dried fava beans). Other product categories include electrical equipment, motor oils, and food.  
 
Egyptian main exports are fresh citruses (85 percent of all exports), vegetables, dried herbs and textiles.
 
There is an opportunity to diversify and source different minerals from Egypt. The trade volume has decreased over the past year, but Egyptian exports to Latvia have grown five times since 2016. Unfortunately, due to the market access restraints, Latvian exports have not increased and last year reached €35 million.
 
AO: How can Latvia's EU membership be effective and beneficial for its partners?
 
AR: As a member of the European Union Latvia has a strong interest in seeing that the EU engages strategically and mutually beneficially with its neighbouring regions in the east and south.

This year it is 20 years since Latvia joined the EU and since the EU-Egypt Association Agreement entered into force.

My country has a strong interest in the EU and Egypt developing its relationship into a new comprehensive and strategic partnership that reflects the long-term importance of Egypt as Europe`s economic partner and as a responsible contributor to stability and security within the Middle East and Africa.

Latvia is a trusted EU partner to Egypt.

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