Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1249, (4 - 10 June 2015)
Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Issue 1249, (4 - 10 June 2015)

Ahram Weekly

The German connection

On his first visit to Germany, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi discussed issues of mutual interest, reports ReemLeila

 

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Al-Ahram Weekly

With an energy crisis, sundry economic issues and terrorism striking again and again, Egypt is facing overwhelming challenges. Heading a delegation that includes Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukri, Minister of Trade and Industry Mounir Fakhri Abdel-Nour and Minister of International Cooperation Naglaa Al-Ehwani, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi paid Germany a two-day visit starting on 2 June.

Though taking place amid diplomatic tension, the visit has proved fruitful with agreements signed to boost Egypt's power supply and a frank presentation of said challenges. Beginning on his arrival on Tuesday night, the Egyptian community in Berlin celebrated the president's presence with remarkable gusto.

On Wednesday morning Al-Sisi met with German President Joachim Gauck at the Bellevue Palace where he expressed his happiness to be in Germany, praising the German model of development and work ethic and conveying the Egyptian people’s admiration for Germany’s industrial prowess and economic progress. For his part Gauk affirmed his country's appreciation for Al-Sisi's project to achieve economic growth, meet the basic needs of all Egyptian citizens and maintain the principles of democracy.

The two leaders discussed recent death sentences issued in Egypt, which were partly the cause of diplomatic tension, and Al-Sisi underlined his commitment to the rule of law and the independence of the Egyptian judiciary, explaining that while the defendants' cases have been referred to the Grand Mufti, this does not mean they are final since they can still be appealed at the Court of Cassation.

The president also met with Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had invited him to the country last month. They discussed ways to strengthen bilateral cooperation and combat terrorism as well as Middle East developments, exchanging views on the situation in Libya. Al-Sisi affirmed Egypt’s support for UN efforts there, stressing the importance of upholding Libya’s legitimate institutions – the elected parliament, the government and the army – as well as stopping the flow of arms and money to terrorist organisations in the country.

Al-Sisi noted that Egypt has been warning of the consequences of a deteriorating situation in Libya and Syria for a long time, pointing to the need for swift measures and attention to the issue of foreign fighters and illegal immigration and the threats they pose to Europe’s security.

The president also reiterated Egypt's commitment to the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, saying that the Rafah border crossing is regularly opened for humanitarian needs despite the security situation in Sinai. He also stressed the need for the international community to provide checks and balances that would dispel both sides' fears in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process and revmove obstacles in the way of the two-state solution.

Immediately after the meeting Al-Sisi and Merkel conducted a joint press conference in which the president expressed his gratitude for Merkel’s invitation. “Egyptians admire the German people and consider them a model to be emulated in state-building, making progress and achieving industrial development,” he noted. He also stressed that citizenship is the foundation on which Egyptian society is based, with no discrimination between Muslims and Christians.

In her turn Merkel stated that her country is keen on partnership with Egypt, given Egypt’s pivotal importance in the region, praising the peace and security that Copts have enjoyed in contrast to their experience over the past two years.

At the press conference the president gave an overview of political and economic developments in Egypt over the course of the past four years, reiterating the state’s commitment to holding parliamentary elections before the end of the year, thus completing Egypt’s roadmap. Al-Sisi also outlined Egypt’s counter-terrorism efforts, pointing out that a range of terrorist organisations derive their extremism from the same ideology.

“Egypt is playing an intellectual role in addressing the root causes of extremism and renewing religious discourse,” Al-Sisi said. He warned against the proliferation of foreign fighters who have joined the ranks of terrorist groups in the region once these fighters return to Europe.

Responding to a query by Merkel on the status of German NGOs operating in Egypt, Al-Sisi underlined Egypt’s commitment to reaching a solution to legalise the activities of these institutions: “Work is underway with the German side to reach a solution that will take into account all legal and social aspects and serve the two countries' mutual interests.”

Al-Sisi also reviewed Egyptian economic plans and measures on the legislative and administrative levels to improve the investment climate in Egypt, promulgating the unified investment law. “We are committed to finding a balance between the need to reduce the deficit and realising economic and social progress,” he said. He added that support from partners in Germany and the EU, whether through direct investment or development funding, is essential. Egypt, he said, welcomes German investment in the energy sector and the Suez Canal Area development project, while Merkel stressed Germany’s support for Egypt and its commitment to offer the necessary assistance to advance the political and development process, particularly in the economic realm, helping to create the conditions that will transform Egypt into a model to be emulated throughout the region.

Merkel also raised the issue of the recent death sentences in Egypt. “The independence of Egypt’s judiciary must be respected and there can be no interference in or commentary on its rulings,” Al-Sisi responded, reviewing the nature of the legal system in Egypt and the rights it guarantees defendants, who can appeal. Al-Sisi also clarified the difference between a court decision to refer the matter to the Mufti and a final death sentences.

Later that day the president headed to the German Economic Ministry where he attended the Egyptian-German Economic Forum and delivered a speech. He also oversaw, in the presence of Abdel-Nour and Al-Ehwani, the signing of four energy-sector agreements costing €8 billion with the German multinational Siemens. According to the terms of these agreements, Egypt will be obtain 10 thousand Megawatts of power, covering one third of its needs of power.

 

For his part Abdel-Nour believes that this visit was essential on both the political and economic levels. He said that, as a regional power, with its unique history and distinctive geographical position, Egypt must be open to the whole world on both the political and economic levels. “We must increase the growth rate which requires more investments and restoring foreign investors’ confidence,” Abdel-Nour said.

A delegation from the Free Egyptian Party had travelled to Germany on Monday to meet with a number of Bundestag members prior to Al-Sisi's visit. “We have many documents, videos and pictures to counter the rumours and misconceptions regarding theb human rights situation in Egypt,” said Essam Khalil, the party’s secretary-general, who explained that the evidence would be handed to German human rights organisations.

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