Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi’s press statement during the joint press conference following the EU-Egypt Association Council


Brussels, 23 January 2024
Thank you very much.
I also would like to welcome Minister Shoukry here in Brussels.

As you have already heard the two speakers, we are entering into a golden age of EU-Egypt relations.

I think that Egypt has proved itself to be our longstanding and reliable partner already. A reliable and predictable partner in the region, a region which faces many, many challenges and this relationship also contains a lot of opportunities; opportunities that we have been discussed, opportunities that we agreed to reap and use and enjoy to the full. So, we think that we all agree that the role of Egypt nowadays in the region is not only paramount, but it is critical. We are convinced that the prosperity, the stability, and the security of Egypt is the prime interest of Europe and this is why I’m very pleased to see that we are contributing not only to this, but to build together something even more steady. Through our cooperation in the last few years, we have laid the foundations of the new phase of our partnership, the deep and comprehensive partnership that we hope to sign very, very quickly with Egypt.

Now, talking about today, Minister Shoukry already mentioned that we have addressed many, many issues.

I just want to give you a flavour, only quote some of the headlines that we went through.

We discussed the success of our Economic and Investment Plan, which is to mobilize 9 billion euros in investments, basically growth and jobs in Egypt in areas that are the most critical, food, water, energy for any sustainable economy. We were really proud to see that out of the 9 billion euros that we have indicated, we have already mobilized 5.8 billion euros in investments in Egypt. I think if you look at the time elapsed, this is a very good result. We started our work back in 2021, and here we are already at the beginning of 2024. Of course, it should encourage us to work even harder to finish all the investments under the Economic and Investment Plan.

Now, it also follows from this that our economic and investment relations are booming. We see that the upcoming Investment Conference in Egypt, which is due this semester, will not only provide a unique opportunity to boost further our economies, but also it generated significant interest in the business and private investors community. And this is something that we’re looking forward to, both of us, with high expectations.

Because the EU has developed itself to be the first investor in Egypt. The EU companies have invested 32% of all the foreign direct investment stock of Egypt. We are not only present, but I think that we are providing a significant part of the engine of the economy of Egypt. And we are also proud to be the first trading partner of Egypt, doing 27% of all the trade Egypt does.
We also discussed energy and the trilateral EU-Egypt-Israel a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that has delivered significant amounts of LNG to Europe. And that has helped Europe to diversify away from Russian gas and to find new reliable partners in terms of gas supply. So, I think this is another success that we have only started working on, and this is already bringing direct benefits also to European citizens.

We have also discussed the future of our cooperation in the energy field, which is, I would say maybe of the biggest potential for the both of us, because Egypt can become not only a reliable supplier of gas, but also a reliable source of renewable energy. And for that reason, we highlighted on our side that the importance of the decision we took to give the status of project of mutual interest for the GREGY project, basically the deep-sea electricity cable between Greece and Egypt. And this status should create a business opportunity and also more interesting financing opportunities for this project. We consider this project to be the first, if you will, a blueprint, for further projects like this with Egypt, but also in the broader region. We are engaging with Tunisia in investments of this kind, with Georgia, but the potential Egypt carries in terms of possible supplier of green electricity is difficult to match. So, we are very interested in not only implementing this project but working on new similar ones.

We also touched upon migration, where we are cooperating very, very closely. We have doubled our efforts there. And I think we all need to praise the very hard work Egypt has been doing relentlessly.

And this hard work has not started yesterday, it’s been with us since the Syrian war and Egypt is a host of a very large refugee community, something only few are talking about. But I hope many more know about this. So, we want to help here as well. I think that what we’re working on, be it the protection of borders, be it fighting smugglers, be it hosting refugee communities, is important. And we want to not only continue to work, but we want to increase our support. And therefore, I’m also very happy to see that the first of our biggest investments in border protection, the search and rescue vessels that are on their way from France to Egypt, are already bringing this cooperation to the fore and make it very visible for everyone.

So, on this basis, these are only the headlines of what we’re working on. I think it’s easy to see why we need to move to the next level.

The next level, which is the privatized relationship between Egypt and the EU, which is a partnership that we would like to create very, very soon. Hopefully next month we should be able to get all the green lights from our member states and move forward to signature so that we can start the implementation very soon.

Of course, this cooperation will be built on pillars, strong pillars of mutual interest: political relations, economic stability, investments in trade, migration and mobility, security and demography, and human capital, just to name the key sectors where we are working. And I want to reassure Minister Shoukry that we are here for the long haul. We’re here to establish this partnership on solid foundations and to accompany Egypt in its biggest challenges, because we also need Egypt to be on our side in our biggest challenges.

Thank you.

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