EU, Egypt coordinate over Houthi attacks on Red Sea: EU’s delegation head

Doaa A.Moneim , Wednesday 20 Dec 2023

The European Union (EU) is coordinating with Egypt regarding protecting the shipments crossing the Red Sea against the Houthi attacks, the Head of the EU Delegation in Egypt, Ambassador Christian Berger, stated on Wednesday.

Christian Berger
Head of the EU Delegation in Egypt Ambassador Christian Berger during the annual end-of-year press conference held on Wednesday 20 December, 2023.

 

Berger's remarks came on Wednesday during the annual end-of-year press conference to review the EU-Egypt partnership in 2023.

He was responding to a question by Ahram Online about the EU’s efforts to protect ships crossing the Red Sea from the Houthi attacks.

 “The shipping lanes and the Suez Canal should remain open, and the attacks must be stopped,” said Berger.

He also cited the statement issued on Wednesday by the EU, US, NATO, and 44 allied countries.

“The undersigned condemn Houthi interference with navigational rights and freedoms in the waters around the Arabian Peninsula, particularly the Red Sea. The numerous attacks originating from Houthi-controlled territories in Yemen, including the 3 December attacks against three commercial vessels in the Southern Red Sea connected to 14 nations, threaten international commerce and maritime security.”

The statement added that the Houthi-led seizure of the Galaxy Leader on 19 November and the detention of its 25-member international crew – who remain unjustly detained – is appalling.

“Such behaviour also threatens the movement of food, fuel, humanitarian assistance, and other essential commodities to destinations and populations worldwide. The undersigned further encourage all states to refrain from facilitating or encouraging the Houthis. There is no justification for these attacks, which affect many countries beyond the flags these ships sail under. We again call on the Houthis to release the Galaxy Leader crew and ship immediately and to cease additional attacks on commercial vessels in the region’s vital waterways,” the statement added.

“We can already see the first impact of this disruption as oil and gas prices and insurance costs are rising, and several international shipping lanes have decided to go around Africa rather than through the Suez Canal,” Berger said.

He added that this situation will also affect European supply chains and supply lines and cause disruptions or cost increases for European consumers.

Supporting Egypt
 

During the press conference, Berger responded to Ahram Online’s request to give more details on the European investors delegation visiting Egypt in the first half of 2024 to explore the investment opportunities Egypt offers.

He said the EU will organize an investment conference in Egypt in early 2024 in collaboration with the Egyptian authorities.

“We would like to bring European investors to take advantage of the investment climate here. But of course, we also will bring to the Egyptian government the points that our business people want to see to improve these investments, particularly the regulatory framework and several other issues,” Berger explained.

He also revealed that the EU is now considering a financing package to support Egypt in dealing with a difficult economic situation.

“We are discussing a comprehensive cooperation package between the EU and Egypt in trade, investment, mobility, migration, and energy. The EU and Egypt are discussing a whole range of aspects at the moment, and, hopefully, we will be able to announce this in greater detail in the coming weeks,” Berger said.

He added that trade, investment, and exports between Egypt and the EU have increased over 2023.

Furthermore, Berger showcased the cooperation areas between the EU and Egypt over 2023, including cooperation in energy, water, defence, immigration, and human rights.

He also pointed out the EU’s support of Egypt in dealing with the repercussions of the war in Gaza and outlined the future collaboration between the two sides.

Moreover, Berger noted that Egypt and the European Union are now co-chairs of the Global Forum on Counterterrorism.

“This is an important area of cooperation between the EU and Egypt. We are also trying to increase our military cooperation, exhibited by the visit of the Force Commander of Operation Atlanta, the EU’s naval force whose counter-piracy military operations do not cover the Red Sea, to Alexandria earlier this year. We have also agreed on closer cooperation between Atlanta and the Egyptian navy," Berger noted.

In addition, Berger said the EU has finalized a significant framework agreement with Egypt that will allow the country to negotiate its participation and association with “Horizon Europe,” the biggest research program worldwide.

“We are doing this hopefully next year based on the agreement we reached earlier this year,” he highlighted.

EU-Egypt cooperation in water
 

“Egypt is becoming an important hub of information and knowledge about water management and usage in an inhospitable climate,” said Berger.

He added that besides the Cairo Water Week annual event, the EU signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Egypt during COP 28 in Dubai on cooperation in the water sector.

Berger also stressed that the EU has established high-level meetings on the water sector in Egypt and will continue to beef them up with programs and projects in the water sector.  

On trade exchange, Berger said that despite the difficult economic situation, the EU managed to increase the exports of agriculture and food products from Egypt to the EU markets by 50 percent compared to the level seen in 2022.

Natural gas exports from Egypt to the EU countries, he said, also increased.

The situation in Gaza
 

Berger said, “We condemned Hamas’s attack on 7 October and spoke about the right of self-defence, but we also made it very clear that this vibe of self-defence has to be exercised within the framework of international humanitarian law. In response to the situation in Gaza, we have immediately tripled the humanitarian assistance to Gaza to 125 million euros.”

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