Ukrainian Ambassador to Egypt Hennadi Latii said that 2018 will witness the seventh session of the Egyptian-Ukrainian joint committee on economic, scientific, and technical cooperation, after it was postponed several times.
Latii added to Daily News Egypt that both countries agreed on holding the joint committee’s next meeting during Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin’s visit to Egypt, which took place from 29-30 April, noting, “this time I am sure we will hold the committee meeting in 2018.”
Daily News Egypt sat down for an interview with Latii, the transcript for which is below, lightly edited for clarity.
What are the main results of the Ukrainian minister of foreign affairs’ visit to Egypt?
The Ukrainian foreign minister held several successful meetings with high-level officials from the local government, including Prime Minister Sherif Ismail; Sameh Shoukry, Egypt’s foreign minister; Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Aal; and Arab League General Secretary Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
The high-level talks emphasised boosting bilateral relations. Activating the political governmental dialogue between both countries was a very positive sign. April was a good month of political bilateral cooperation.
On 11 April, high-profile talks between the Ukrainian’s Foreign Ministry’s director general for the Middle East and Africa, Myroslava Shcherbatyuk, and the deputy assistant minister for Eastern and Southern European affairs of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, Nahla El Zawahry, were held. Can you elaborate on that?
The two sides discussed issues of bilateral cooperation in political, trade, academic, and consular areas. Particular attention was paid to promoting bilateral contacts, according to the embassy’s website.
During the Egyptian foreign minister’s meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, both sides discussed means of cooperation through international organisations like the United Nations, especially since Egypt and Ukraine were temporary members of the Security Council in 2016 and 2017. The two ministers agreed that they had a successful cooperation.
Both ministers discussed future cooperation regarding specific regional and international issues, emphasising the importance of fighting terrorism since Ukraine suffers from a Russian occupation of an eastern area of its land, while Egypt faces security issues in North Sinai and is considered a leader in solving Middle East issues.
Egypt’s Minister of Trade and Industry Tarek Kabil and Minister of Tourism Rania Al-Mashat attended the Ukrainian minister’s meeting with Egypt’s prime minister to discuss the possibilities of boosting trade and tourism relations between both countries.
I see great potential for increasing the trade exchange between both countries to higher figures than in 2017, which recorded $2bn, boosting tourist numbers, which were 800,000 travellers, was discussed as well.
Ukrainian tourists to Egypt got the second rank in the top nationalities list who visited the country in 2017 after Germany, which ranked number one. We expect that the numbers will jump to more than 1 million tourists in 2018 as the Ukrainian airline Ukraine International Airlines launched regular flights between the capitals of Ukraine and Egypt in April; four flights a week.
Actually, there are many charter flights between Ukrainian cities and Sharm El-Sheikh, Hurghada, and El Alamein. I think that connecting both countries via direct airline will help facilitate businesspersons and students’ travels and to refresh tourism relations as well.
In the past, Egyptians had to travel to a third country to reach Ukraine, which was very tiring, but now there is a direct line with reasonable prices, and in three hours and a half, you will be there.
Is Ukraine International Airlines a private or state-owned company?
Actually, it is a private sector company, but it is the largest airline in Ukraine.
Do you have any information that EgyptAir will establish a direct line too?
The potential is there for EgyptAir to have a direct line to Ukraine. However, it is their decision, the air is open for them.
When will Egypt’s foreign minister visit Ukraine?
He received an invitation a long time ago. Egypt’s foreign minister already agreed to visit Ukraine, but in the upcoming months, we will discuss the visit’s timing.
In August 2017, the Ukrainian ambassador said at a press conference at the embassy that his country sent the Egyptian side about four invitations, including an invitation to President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry, and Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Aal.
What about the results of Egypt’s minister for public sector affairs’ visit to Ukraine?
In April, Minister of Public Sector Affairs Khaled Badawy paid a visit to Ukraine and major Ukrainian companies that participated in the reform of Egyptian metals companies were discussed during the visit.
Badawi’s visit was in response to an invitation from the Ukrainian first deputy prime minister.
In the 1960s and the early 1970s, companies from the Soviet Union participated in establishing Egyptian metals companies, and now, after years, these companies are Ukrainian and they have the modern technologies to participate in the companies’ reforms.
Can you tell us which Ukrainian companies want to participate in the public sector reform?
Negotiations are ongoing so we will not disclose the names until both sides come to an agreement. Egypt’s minister of public sector affairs visited the interested companies and discussed the matter with the Ukrainian first deputy prime minister.
On 13 March, the ambassador of Ukraine to Egypt had a meeting with Khaled Badawy. Can you further explain the details of that meeting?
The meeting was centred on possibilities of more active involvement of Ukrainian enterprises in implementing various projects related to reconstruction and supplying Egyptian state enterprises with modern machinery and appliances.
How do Ukrainian companies see opportunities in Egyptian megaprojects?
Ukrainian companies already have the ability to participate in the megaprojects. They are modernised and are ready to participate in Egypt’s major projects, but what we really need is to meet and closely discuss the opportunities.
I think that the next period will witness activating bilateral economic relations after discussing cooperation during the Ukrainian foreign minister’s visit to Egypt.
We have read much news regarding organising an Egyptian-Ukrainian joint committee on economic, scientific, and technical cooperation, when will it be?
Organising the joint committee was postponed many times in the past years, but during the foreign minister’s recent visit to Egypt, we agreed to arrange it in the next months, and this time I am sure we will organise it in 2018.
We will determine a specific timing shortly, but it will be held in the Ukrainian capital Kiev and also, we will determine other official visits between both countries.
Can you give us updates on Ukrainian companies’ activities in Egypt?
The cooperation between both counties focuses very much on trade as a priority and will focus on investments. The Ukrainian oil and gas company is the biggest investor in Egypt with about $400m. It sees potential and will continue its successful work. However, there are some small companies represented in Egypt.
I think that by the end of June, a Ukrainian company will start delivering the Alexandria tram carriages to Egypt.
What about interest from new companies?
Many companies are interested in the Egyptian market, especially in the field of importation.
How do Ukrainian companies see the Egyptian market right now?
The Egyptian market is a very huge one, which offers a lot of opportunities, especially with the bilateral agreements with African and Arab countries. However, the economic situation in Ukraine will play a role in taking decisions regarding foreign investments. We expect 3.5% GDP growth by the end of 2018, so I think Ukrainians will have the opportunity to invest outside the country.
What efforts will be exerted to boost tourism figures?
I think we can bring 1 million Ukrainian tourists by the end of 2018. Egyptian companies shall present good conditions to encourage Ukrainian tourists. Egypt is well known in Ukraine as a country with a civilisation and history. Many Ukrainians like to visit Egypt during the winter and summer because of its Red Sea and I am optimistic we can gradually exceed the expected numbers.
Last year witnesses many cultural activities. Will this year witness new, similar activities?
You are right, last year we organised many cultural activities. We announced the first translated book from Ukrainian to Arabic and had the symphonic orchestra play during these activities.
On 6 November 2017, representatives of the Egyptian Ministry of Culture, the Greater Cairo Public Library, cultural institutions, and universities participated in a presentation of the first ever collected poetry and letters written by outstanding Ukrainian writer and poet Lesya Ukrainka (1871-1913), translated into the Arabic language. The Embassy of Ukraine and translators handed over 10 books to the Greater Cairo Public Library.
In the second half of 2018, we are looking to organise an exhibition of Ukrainian painters in Alexandria on the occasion of celebrating 50 years of the twinning agreement between Alexandria and the Ukrainian city Odessa, which was signed in 1968. We will organise an exhibition about the city of Odessa in Alexandria and a music party as well.
How many Egyptians study in Ukraine annually? Why is Ukraine an attractive destination for Egyptian students?
A large number of Egyptian youth applied to Ukrainian universities, especially to get their master’s degrees. We have about 2,500 Egyptian students studying in Ukraine at the moment. Ukraine is well known for its good educational system in Europe. Egyptian students in Ukraine do not face any difficulties.