By Tim Nanns
German MP and head of the Christian Union parliamentary bloc, Volker Kauder, met President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi Monday, sparking condemnation from the German opposition.
After the meeting, which lasted over two hours, Kauder said Germany “absolutely needs to intensify” its relations with Egypt, calling the country an “anchor of stability”. He also said that his impression is that Egypt is likewise “strongly interested” in intensifying its relations with Germany.
As reasons for the need to establish stronger cooperation, the MP named the “security situation” in the Middle East as the primary reason for the need to “support the democratic development of the country [Egypt]”. Kauder also stressed the importance of parliamentary elections taking place in “foreseeable time”, and to enable the press in Egypt to work “as freely as possible”.
In the statement by the Christian Union parliamentary bloc, economic ties were mentioned “foremost” as a field for growing cooperation between the two countries. According to the statement, Al-Sisi expected German investments in his country to number roughly €20bn-€30bn.
Another important aspect was the security cooperation, with assurances by the German side that there was a “strong interest that the relationships to Cairo develop successfully”. Kauder called the formation of a joint military force, as decided on at the Arab League summit on Sunday, as “a very important step”, since this force could “stabilise the region more than in the past”.
He also called Al-Sisi’s confession to religious freedom, an important topic to the German MP in the past, “impressive” with Al-Sisi stating: “There are only Egyptians and no division between Christians and Muslims.”
The German MP is known as an advocate for Christians abroad, stressing the importance to protect them as a minority. He voiced concerns as Morsi took power, warning not to transform the Egyptian civil state into a religious one, and to maintain dialogue with social groups, especially including Christians.
Kauder arrived in Egypt on Saturday evening, visiting Luxor on Sunday. The schedule included a meeting with the local governor. On Monday his programme in Cairo started with talks with cultural workers, then moving on to meet Al-Sisi. In the afternoon, he met Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayeb, before moving on to meet German industry representatives in Egypt, according to an embassy representative.
Kauder has visited Egypt several times since the 25 January Revolution, with this visit marking his fifth in as many years. Among these visits were one during ousted President Mohammed Morsi’s reign and another one after his ouster, to meet Al-Sisi, then still Minister of Defence. He was one of the first higher-ranking European representatives to do so after the ouster, which has been viewed by many European governments as a military coup. After Al-Sisi’s election to president, he stated that it was “a chance for more stability and a better future”.
Christine Buchholz, member of the executive board of German left-wing opposition party DIE LINKE, called the visits of Kauder and Vice Chancellor Gabriel to Egypt in a statement issued to Daily News Egypt “tasteless concerning the violent acts by the Egyptian military against the opposition”. Buchholz mentioned the hundreds of death sentences handed out by Egyptian courts, and the “inhumane circumstances” under which “thousands of journalists and political enemies” are held in Egyptian prisons.
Buchholz also called the invitation of Al-Sisi to Germany a “recognition of the bloody coup” that saw Al-Sisi take power while calling the following elections “a farce concerning repression and prosecution of great parts of the opposition.”
Earlier this year Al-Sisi had been invited to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, a visit that is expected to take place in two to three months. A previous invitation was conditional on parliamentary elections – a condition that was removed after the delay of the elections.
Germany is an important partner to Egypt, especially concerning its economic investments in the country and its arms exports. This arms export practice has in the past also sparked strong criticism.