Wednesday,21 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1416, (1 - 7 November 2018)
Wednesday,21 November, 2018
Issue 1416, (1 - 7 November 2018)

Ahram Weekly

The German connection

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s visit to Germany this week reflects growing relations between the two countries on both the political and economic levels. The president was invited to Berlin to take part in the second summit that stemmed from the German initiative for partnership with the African continent, and to hold bilateral talks with top German officials, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, the German president and parliament speaker.

Although several African leaders were invited to take part in the summit, President Al-Sisi is the only president to have his own bilateral programme with German officials. The fact that the Egyptian president held seven meetings so far with Chancellor Merkel over the past three years indicates that the two leaders have developed enough confidence and trust to maintain a strong working relationship.

Considering that Germany will become a non-permanent member of the Security Council in 2019-2020, and that Egypt will chair the African Union as of the beginning of 2019, both countries will have a lot of shared responsibilities on both the regional and international levels. Both countries need to work together on combating terrorism and illegal immigration, finding a just settlement for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, agreeing on a long strategy to end civil wars in Libya, Syria and Yemen, and assuring that nuclear non-proliferation includes all countries of the region, particularly Israel. While the Security Council and key world countries have been imposing sanctions on countries like Iran and North Korea for developing their own nuclear programmes, Israel has been given an incomprehensible exception, without even asking Tel Aviv to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or opening its nuclear facilities for international inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Germany can also contribute positively to much needed economic development in Africa and solving many of the continent’s internal conflicts. With Germany’s membership in the Security Council, Egypt will also work closely with Berlin on reforming the international body responsible for maintaining peace and security, namely through increasing the number of non-permanent seats for both Africa and the Arab region. Without such reform, the Security Council will remain a tool serving the interests of the five permanent members who maintain veto power. This is not only unfair, but reflects a major imbalance in the world order that harms the interests of the majority of world countries.

Germany has also been a vital partner for Egypt in its effort to improve its infrastructure, economy and army. German companies contributed significantly to Egypt’s effort to increase its electricity output, easing one of the country’s key challenges over the past few years. The two countries have signed contracts worth 11.5 billion euros in order to improve the electricity sector in Egypt, including one contract alone worth 8.5 billion euros to build three mega power stations in Borollos, Beni Sweif and the New Administrative Capital. In the same framework, Germany agreed to provide training for 600 Egyptian engineers and workers in the fields of electricity and energy.

With the recent gas discoveries made in Egypt there is even more room for cooperation between Egypt and Germany. Egypt hopes to turn into an international energy hub, providing gas to Europe in general, and Germany in particular. This will only add to existing bilateral trade between the two countries which reached nearly six billion euros in 2017, with sound improvement in Egyptian exports to Germany.

This doesn’t mean that differences do not exist between the two countries. President Al-Sisi will certainly use his visit to Berlin to explain to German counterparts the difficulties Egypt has been facing in fighting terrorism, and how this made it necessary to adopt only gradual political reform. Considering the tragic developments in several nearby Arab countries that have practically disintegrated after the breakdown of their central governments and armies, concentrating on political reforms is not the only priority.

Peoples of this region certainly aspire for democracy, and are entitled to enjoy their human rights. However, without security and meeting the basic needs of the majority of poor populations in the region, there will be nothing but wars and disintegration of existing nations. This will only add to world problems, whether in terms of increasing levels of terrorism, or illegal immigration.

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