CAIRO: The changing political and economic dynamics in the world have affected Egypt’s leadership position and influence on international affairs, Middle East analyst and researcher Sophie Pommier said.
On Tuesday, Oct. 5, the Centre d’Études et de Documentation Économiques, Juridiques et Sociales (Center for Social, Judical, and Economic Documentation and Study, CEDEJ) hosted a talk by Pommier from Sciences-Po University in France.
The talk focused on Egyptian foreign policy in the context of globalization, and was one of a series of lectures and conferences CEDEJ will host this year.
Pommier began by reviewing foreign policies and benchmark moments under the leadership of Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat.
The dynamics between Egypt and the world after 1952 can be measured by the barometer of Cairo’s policies towards the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, she said. Nasser led the pro-Palestinian, pan-Arabist foreign policy while Sadat’s regime was characterized by a westward-looking approach and the signing of the Camp David Accords.
Incumbent President Hosni Mubarak inherited an Egypt that was becoming increasingly estranged from the other Arab states. However, it once again began actively supporting the Palestinian cause in an effort to reconcile with its neighbors.
Throughout the Cold War period and before the great economic and technological shifts of the early 21st century, Egypt’s role in the world was always visible, Pommier said. Egypt has always been involved in multilateral partnerships, conferences, and military exercises. Cairo was, for many decades, a portal to the region’s various economies and societies, and was a key player in many political negotiations.
Since 9/11, however, Egypt’s influence in the region and its socio-cultural hegemony has declined. While Egypt was once at the epicenter of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, today Turkey is taking the helm. Among the other states in the region, the leadership of Tehran and Damascus are also a challenge to Cairo’s influential position, Pommier said.
This loss of prominence in the peace process and the anxiety over the waning regional influence of the country could be understood as the reason behind the photo-doctoring fiasco of last month by the government-owned Al-Ahram newspaper, Pommier added.
Still, Pommier maintained that Egypt is far from becoming a nation of secondary importance. The driving point of her talk was to draw the distinction between the influence of the country before and after the explosive, globalizing changes in international relations which has occurred over the last two decades.
While regional negotiations cannot occur without Egypt’s participation, its cooperation is no longer enough for foreign governments to further their interests in the Middle East, Pommier said.
Pommier is the author of several books focusing on Egypt and the Middle East, and she is a veteran of such French research establishments as the Arab World Institute and the Institute of Political Studies.
Following the talk, Pommier answered questions from members of the audience, including students and CEDEJ staff.
The CEDEJ opened in Cairo in 1968, as part of the Franco-Egyptian cultural agreement, and is devoted to promoting research in the social sciences. Students, civil servants, and professional researchers from all over the world come to CEDEJ to complete in-depth research projects and training focusing on governance, sustainable development, and data collection in Egypt and the Middle East in general.
“The mission of the center is the training of students — both Egyptian and French, and more broadly from Europe and the Arab world — in the field of human social sciences,” said CEDEJ Director Marc Lavergne.
The work of the center’s students and staff aims to promote a comprehensive approach to understanding and solving the global challenges faced by Egypt and the overall region as each continue to develop economically and technologically.
CEDEJ is funded by the French National Council for Scientific Research and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is part of a network of 30 French research institutes worldwide and is one of five such centers in the Arab world. A branch of the Cairo CEDEJ is located in Khartoum, and the Cairo center has dynamic partnerships with similar institutions in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Tunisia.
Graduate students and those who have recently obtained a doctoral degree — both from Egypt and abroad — can qualify for scholarships to participate in CEDEJ research. In addition to academic social science research, the center also participates in professional contracts with the Egyptian census, the Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs, and the Supreme Council of Antiquities.
The next presentation in this year’s series will be given in English on Oct. 19 by doctoral student Leslie Piquemal, focusing on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
For more information on the CEDEJ and its projects, visit: http://www.cedej-eg.org/