EU Ambassador James Moran
Ladies & Gentlemen of the press,
Welcome. It is always good to see you all here. A special welcome to our panellists tonight.
First and foremost, I want to express our profound sympathy and condolences to all the families who have been bereaved by the terrorist attacks here in Cairo and Northern Sinai. They have suffered terrible losses and while words are never enough, I want them to know that all of us in Europe, Governments and people, feel with them. Many of our own citizens have also been victims of terror this week on the beaches of Tunisia, and if ever we had to face up to a common challenge in our region, then this is it.
Please join me in a minute of silence in memory of all victims of these reprehensible attacks.
That is why we want to work much more closely with Egypt and other friends in the region on fighting this scourge. And so, working with the authorities here, the EU will during the second half of this year produce a counter-terrorism plan of action that will enhance the efforts already being made by some of our member states. We all know this will not be easy: not least in the interests of truly durable security and stability, we must take great care to avoid violating fundamental freedoms, but do it we must.
The whole question of our common security is a major focus for the current review of the European Neighbourhood Policy, and judging by the consultations on the ENP we have had here in Egypt, whether with Government, business or civil society, it is clear that we must do more, much more, to protect our people and deal with the threats we face. The new policy should be announced in the autumn and I’ll return to this at a later date.
We also need to work much more closely on regional threats, and Egypt is an indispensable partner in moving forward on the panoply of challenges we both face, whether in Libya, Syria, Yemen and of course in the middle east, where there is an urgent need to revitalise the peace process based on the two state solution.
These conflicts are also part of the reason why we have witnessed such a crisis in migration across our common sea, the Mediterranean. Let me be clear about this. It is not just about military action to disrupt the heinous people traffickers, although that is an important part of the response. It is above all about saving lives, whether action at sea or through attacking the root causes in the countries of origin, whether political or economic.
Here in Egypt, we have continued to work assiduously for stability and development. A key part of that is the completion of the roadmap, which we fully support and we very much hope that parliamentary elections will be held soon. The signs are that they will take place this year, and the sooner the parliament is in session, the better.
But whoever is in power, economic recovery is a sine que non for stability and prosperity. Part of the ground has been laid with the Government’s courageous economic reforms of the past year and it is good to see growth prospects looking up. We hope the reform programme will continue. Recovery has also been helped by the successful economic conference in Sharm, where the EU, through its assistance programmes, development banks and companies, played a key part, with some 35 billion euros in new financing and investments pledged from these sources.
And The EU remains this country’s number one trading partner and investor: bilateral trade last year increased by 11%. That said, we believe we can do even better than that by attacking some of the non-tariff barriers to our trade. Remember, trade and investment means growth and jobs. Recent protectionist tendencies in some sectors, such as cars and agriculture have caused some concern and we should find ways of managing these to the benefit of both sides.
EU tourism is beginning to pick up again, and we need to do all we can to promote it. We have a new assistance programme getting underway that prioritises tourism training, aimed at raising the quality of service and giving greater opportunity to the millions of Egyptians who depend on the industry. More generally, our assistance programmes are now focussed on the poor and vulnerable, and since our last ifthar, we have made many new grant commitments, whether in primary school feeding, basic employment or rural development. Let me pay tribute to civil society here, who are often at the sharp end of these development efforts, delivering date bars in schools, implementing small agricultural schemes or building feeder roads.
Let me mention two other areas where cooperation is intensifying: one is science and innovation, where Egypt has over the last year become our prime partner in this region in the massive new Horizon 2020 programme, with hundreds of participants and nine major new projects in industrial technology, mobility of researchers and science diplomacy.
Last but by no means least, there will be a major – some say make-or-break conference on climate change in Paris in December. Egypt has a key role in this, both in its own right, as one of the major economies and population centres on this continent and as a leader in Africa, where it chairs the African environment conference. The EU, along with other major economies has already made its offer for Paris and we hope that Egypt will soon make a contribution: we know that also depends on adequate financing for developing countries, and as shown in the G7 a few weeks ago we are committed to that, both globally and locally, where EU grants and loans finance 4.65 billion Euros of investments in renewable energy, water and other climate relevant sectors.
I said earlier that Egypt is an indispensable partner for us. I believe Egypt feels the same way about the EU. Let’s get to work.
And let me also mark the change of the internal EU presidency from Latvia to Luxembourg as of today.