The European Union (EU) supports resumption of negotiations between Egypt and Ethiopia regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) dispute, Christian Berger, Ambassador of the EU to Egypt has told Daily News Egypt.
The EU also backs the Chair of African Union’s (AU) mediation in the GERD talks to enhance regional stability, he added.
The EU Ambassador revealed that the union has recently agreed with Egypt to provide a finance package to support the latter’s fight against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The package is in pipeline and will be announced hopefully soon, Berger said.
“We are currently completing technical aspects for that [financing package], which is important of course to see how EU and Egypt can cooperate to overcome the social economic impacts of COVID-19 in both sides,” he stated.
In a different context, Berger said, “I used to be with Egypt in the past from 2011 to 2016, I was the Director/Deputy Managing Director for the Middle East and North Africa at the European External Action Service in Brussels. I was involved in negotiating the EU-Egypt Association Agreement, which entered into force in early 2004. It was a very comprehensive agreement to strengthen our relationship with the Egyptian government on the level of prime ministers, ministers, government associations, NGOs, and media.”
The EU and Egypt are close partners and enjoy a long-standing friendship and strong relations in many fields. The EU is Egypt’s largest trading partner and the number one foreign direct investor. We also work together on global issues facing the EU and Egypt, like the current COVID-19 pandemic, according to Ambassador Berger.
He disclosed, “During my EU presidency in Egypt, I’m focusing on several priorities. One of these priorities is water issues, as I believe that we can do more with Egypt in this field and provide sustainable management of water.”
Berger went on, “For the EU, one of the first steps in its post-2020 Agenda will be to ensure that the priorities and association agendas with each of our partners retain ambitious while realistic and shared objectives for reform and economic development, particularly in a resource-intensive and high-impact sector such as water management.The EU and its Member States are partners of Egypt in its ambitious agenda for water management; work closely with the authorities and provide support, technical expertise, and capacity building. The joint aim is to make full use of the opportunities that water offers.”
He further said, “I want to help Egypt to implement projects that would participate in providing clean drinking water and better quality and quantity of water which is expected to be achieved within the coming three or four years, as well as, healthy sanitation and solid waste systems, as well, supporting Egyptian desalination projects. I will be pleased if this strategy is achieved to contribute to do that.”
“We are committed to continue working with the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation and other partners to secure water as a valuable sustainable resource for Egypt and to support Egypt as a regional hub for the transfer of knowledge on water management,” he added.
He explained that the second priority is empowerment of young people through getting jobs, besides, the empowerment of women, as there is a lot of work to do with the National Council for Women in Egypt, which is one of the most important entities focused on women issues.
Moreover, the EU is committed to improve infrastructure projects in Egyptian governorates; consequently, it announced the EU-Joint Rural Development Programme (EU-JRDP), he noted, pointed out that The EU-JRDP is part of the larger support that the EU is providing to the rural areas or for the development of agriculture in the country.
The EU-JRDP is an area-based initiative that started in three governorates (2014-2020), namely Matrouh, Minya, and Fayoum, and was implemented by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and Development, through the Italian Embassy in Egypt with the technical assistance of the Italian Agency for Cooperation (AICS), allocating €11m to the project. The EU has allocated a grant of €21.9m for this project.
The EU-JRDP aims to contribute to the development of best practice-based knowledge during the preparation of future projects in rural development. In the governorate of Matrouh, the project developed best water harvesting practices in the dry lands of the North West Coastal Zone of Egypt. In Matrouh, the project also increased the resilience capacity of pastoralists and made the promotion of Geographical Indications (GIs). In Minya and Fayoum, the project increased the land and water productivity through the rehabilitation of irrigation networks and waste management practices.
The project demonstrated the importance of the participatory approach when it comes to irrigation development and waste management in old lands. In these two governorates, the project demonstrated also the value addition of introducing ad-hoc well-adapted new technologies for high yielding horticultural crops for marketing purposes. Eventually, the project as a whole, demonstrated the importance of taking into consideration gender aspects, to achieve sustainable and impactful results when it comes to rural development.
Over and above, the EU provided the National Solid Waste Management Programme (NSWMP), the Ambassador highlighted. The solid waste management is a top priority for health, environmental protection, and a sustainable economy. As partners and friends, the EU is proud to support Egypt on this path, he added.
The NSWMP programme aims at implementing effective policy, legislation, and institutional arrangements for waste management in Egypt, coupled with the establishment of the related infrastructure.