'Egypt intends to sign nuclear power plant deal with Russia soon,' says parliamentary affairs minister Marawan

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 11 Jul 2017

Egypt's Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Omar Marawan also said that a third extension of the state of emergency should go in line with the constitution. Gamal Essam El-Din reports

File photo: Egyptian parliament (Photo: Reuters)

Egyptian Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Omar Marawan said in a press conference on Tuesday that Egypt intends to finalise a deal with Russia to build four nuclear power stations in Egypt.

"The government has no intention of backtracking on this deal because it is very important to Egypt," Marawan said.

“However, before we sign the final agreement, the government wants to make sure that all safety measures will be in place to guarantee that the new nuclear power stations will not cause any harmful radiation in the future.”

Egypt and Russia signed an agreement in 2015 for Russia to build four nuclear power stations in Egypt by 2022.

In May, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi told the Russian ministers of defence and foreign affairs that "we welcome Russia building four nuclear power plants in Egypt in the next few years."

El-Sisi also told the national media that the State Council has ratified the final draft to build three of the power stations.

"We are still waiting for the fourth contract to be finalised by the State Council," said El-Sisi.

Russian state-owned company Rosatom will be in charge of implementing the Egyptian-Russian nuclear deal, with the first plant to be built in Dabaa, west of Alexandria.

Extending state of emergency

Marawan also praised parliament for voting in favour of extending a nationwide state of emergency for an additional three months.  

"I cannot say whether the state of emergency will be extended for a third time, because this will be judged by security conditions," said Marawan.

Marawan added that Article 154 of the constitution says that a state of emergency cannot be extended three consecutive times.

"This means that after October there should be a three-month interval for any extension to be constitutional," said Marawan.

Marawan added that the next period will see the formation of a Higher Council on Combating Terrorism and Extremism.

The three-month state of emergency was imposed after the April suicide bombings of two churches in Tanta and Alexandria, and was extended in June for another three months.

Marawan said that intensive discussions are still underway within presidential and government circles on whether the Council on Combating Terrorism and Extremism should be created by passing a law in parliament or by presidential decree.

"We are also discussing what kind of members and public figures should join the board of this council, which will be a landmark step towards ridding Egypt of terrorist and extremist threats," said Marawan.

Tiran and Sanafir deal

On the recently approved deal to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, Marawan insisted that the controversial agreement was discussed in parliament last month in line with Article 151 of the constitution.

"We postponed the discussion of this deal for some time, but this was due to the fact that some aspects and procedures took a lot of time to be completed," Marawan said, adding that "once all procedures were complete, we immediately decided to refer it to parliament."

The decision to discuss the deal in parliament received sharp criticism, with some accusing the government of exerting pressure to push the deal through parliament without adequate discussion.

Marawan, however, says that the government was highly cooperative and keen to provide parliament with all the needed information and to respond to questions raised by MPs in the second 2016/2017 session.

"We referred as many as 247 draft laws to parliament in 2016/2017, with parliament approving 210," said Marawan.

However, Marawan deplored that no interpellations were discussed in parliament's second session.

"An interpellation is the most serious supervisory tool because it levels accusations against the government, so we should be informed of any interpellation in advance in order to prepare our responses," said Marawan.

New laws in the pipeline

Marawan also said that the long-awaited law on criminal procedures, which aims at speeding up trials, is still being discussed by the state council.

Marawan said that the next legislative season will see parliament discuss a number of important laws on local councils, professional syndicates, national health insurance, and national press organisations.

"We hope that the passing of the new local councils will help ensure that municipal elections are held at the end of this year," said Marawan.

Fuel subsidy cuts

In response to accusations from MPs that the government took them by surprise when it decided to raise fuel prices twice in eight months, Marawan said that the price hike was part of a government policy statement that MPs had approved.

"We know that MPs accuse us of embarrassing them, but we were clear from the beginning that economic reform and cutting down on subsidies have become a necessity and would be implemented in accordance with a time schedule," said Marawan.

"We agreed with MPs, however, that wealthy classes should bear the brunt of price hikes and that these classes should not receive any kind of subsidies," said Marawan, adding that "the expected increase in power prices aims to ration electrical consumption and relieve this sector of heavy losses."

Marawan said "there is no doubt that the recent liberalisation policies have proved excellent in improving the Egyptian economy in the first half of 2017."

"We see that the country's foreign currency reserves have increased from $15 billion eight months ago to around $32 billion currently, and we see that tourism traffic increased by 40 percent," said Marawan.

"Although foreign debts climbed up in the first half of this year [to around $72 billion], I want to make sure that Egypt is able to pay these debts on time because most of its money was invested in profitable projects."

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