Egypt's German connection

Doaa El-Bey , Saturday 19 Jan 2019

Doaa El-Bey examines the latest efforts to capitalise on strong Egyptian-German relations

Mustafa Madbouli
Egyptian Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli during a meeting with a number of German company heads in Berlin (Photo: Courtesy of Egyptian Cabinet Official Facebook page)

The last few months have seen a number of visits between senior Egyptian and German officials of which Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli’s visit to Berlin earlier this week was the latest.

During Madbouli’s trip German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier accepted an invitation extended by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi to visit Egypt. In 2015, during his first visit to Egypt following the election of Al-Sisi as president, Steinmeier, who was Germany’s foreign minister at the time, described Egypt as one of Berlin’s “most important partners” in the Arab world.

In Germany Madbouli met with ministers and business leaders including Olaf Scholz, the Federal minister of finance and vice chancellor, to discuss economic cooperation and Egypt’s economic reform programme.

He also attended the opening of the World Men’s Handball Championship with Steinmeier. Egypt is in the competition and is scheduled to host the next championship in 2021.

Madbouli met with representatives and senior officials of the German carmaker Mercedes Benz to discuss the company’s plans in Egypt. An Egyptian cabinet statement said that Mercedes-Benz production chief Markus Schaefer told Madbouli that the carmaker was looking to resume operations in Egypt — it halted its assembly in the country on 2015 — and is considering assembling new models in Egypt.

One aim of Madbouli’s visit was to benefit from Germany’s experience in waste management. He held meetings with representatives of several German companies working in the recycling field. Germany is a global leader in waste recycling and has the best municipal waste recycling rate in the world.

“Mutual interests clearly control relations between Cairo and Berlin. Germany is focused on the need for a secure Egypt to maintain stability in the region, and Egypt is looking towards economic cooperation with Europe’s strongest economy.

While problems like terrorism and illegal migration make cooperation between the two states essential, issues like Egypt’s human rights record have compromised ties,” said a diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity.

In October last year President Al-Sisi paid a four-day visit to Germany, at the invitation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to participate in the G20 Compact with Africa Summit.

At the time Al-Sisi highlighted Egyptian efforts to combat illegal migration by preventing boats carrying migrants from heading to Europe.

As part of the 2017 EU-Egypt agreement Cairo is committed to enhancing coastal security and resettling any refugees it intercepts in the Mediterranean on Egyptian territory. In return, the EU offers Egypt financial incentives and some diplomatic privileges.

Following the 30 June Revolution relations with Germany were strained. Diplomatic and economic ties are, however, being gradually restored. Merkel received Al-Sisi in Berlin in June 2015, a visit that many commentators saw as signalling the end of the downturn in ties. In March 2017 Merkel visited Cairo.

The foreign ministers of both countries have exchanged multiple visits in the last three years and economic cooperation and tourism has been high on their agenda.

In November 2016 German passenger flights resumed to Sharm El-Sheikh following the ban which was imposed after a Russian jet crashed in Sinai in 2015.

Around 1,000 German companies were operating in the Egyptian market in July 2017. Trade in 2017 between the two countries reached €5.8 billion, up from €5.3 billion in 2016.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 17 January, 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: The German connection

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