The landmark Egypt-EU Strategic Partnership

Ioannis Kotoulas
Tuesday 19 Mar 2024

The Strategic Partnership signed in Cairo last week is a landmark for economic cooperation, security, and regional stability between Egypt and the EU, writes Ioannis Kotoulas

 

Egypt and the EU have adopted a Strategic Partnership that will prove to be the cornerstone of mutual benefits and security for the years to come in the wider region. The comprehensive deal signed this Sunday in Cairo is a major landmark for economic cooperation, security, and regional stability between Egypt and the EU.

President of Egypt Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi received European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and six other EU leaders in Cairo for the signing of the Strategic Partnership. Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer and the Prime Ministers of Belgium, Alexander De Croo, and Italy, Giorgia Meloni, were part of this high-level meeting.

The multifaceted deal emphasises the economy, security, migration, and regional cooperation. It has been signed 20 years after the emblematic Association Agreement between Egypt and the EU entered into force in 2004. The EU considers Egypt to be a valuable partner and a beacon of stability and responsible statecraft in the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and Africa, and the new deal confirms the excellent ties between the EU and Egypt.

The new deal is based on a holistic approach and on six fundamental pillars of mutual interest: political relations, economic stability, investment and trade, migration and mobility, security and demography.

Economic cooperation and development, investments, the digitisation of services, water security, the fight against trafficking networks, the protection of borders, the emphasis on territorial sovereignty, and the repatriation of illegal migrants, are also essential aspects of the deal.

Regarding the migration crisis that has affected both the EU and Egypt due to instability in the wider region, it should be noted that the new deal addresses not just the results of the migration crisis, but also its primary causes. Egypt has been exemplary in controlling migration flows towards the EU.

By the end of the year an investment summit between Egypt and the EU will also be held that will elaborate on specific measures. Egypt will receive €7.4 billion in EU funding until 2027, and the final sum could be considerably greater. Egypt has also recently secured funding and investments from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and Japan. The IMF has granted Egypt an augmented $8 billion loan, and now the EU is stepping in too.

Greece, as an EU member state, has been pivotal in promoting this deal, especially in a period when not all EU members have understood the importance of the Mediterranean as an important strategic region. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has been vocal in calling for a Strategic Partnership between the EU and Egypt, being the first EU leader to do so.

Greece was the first EU country to sign a migration and mobility pact with Egypt in 2022 and an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) deal in 2020. Greece, along with Cyprus, were the first countries to highlight the strategic importance of Egypt for EU interests. Greek diplomacy has been constantly promoting regional cooperation and the need for the EU to adopt pro-active strategies in the Mediterranean. In essence, the Strategic Partnership promoted by the new deal is an important step towards enhancing cooperation and stability in the Mediterranean.

However, the deal also needs to be supplemented by a holistic approach to Mediterranean security. The stabilisation of war-torn Libya is essential in this context, and this can only be achieved by adopting the proposals set out by Egypt towards a viable political solution. The end of hostilities in Gaza and a two-state solution regarding the Palestinian issue that will end the plight of the Palestinian people and the stabilisation of the situation in Sudan are also parts of this approach to ensure future stability in the wider region.

The first important step has been taken by the leaderships of Egypt and the EU. The implementation of the Strategic Partnership by both sides and the mutual respect of national interests with an emphasis on state sovereignty and political independence is the cornerstone of our cooperation.

The major Strategic Partnership between Egypt and the EU announced last week will prove essential in securing the stability and prosperity of our common home, the Mediterranean.

 

The writer is adjunct lecturer in geopolitics at the University of Athens in Greece.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 21 March, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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