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“EU-Egypt deal” is intended to stem the flow of migrants to Europe

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“EU-Egypt deal” is intended to stem the flow of migrants to Europe

Last but not least, this is intended to stem the flow of migrants to Europe. The agreement for a “strategic partnership” was finalized during a visit by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to the Egyptian capital with several heads of government, including Karl Nehammer (ÖVP).

“The EU-Egypt Deal” – there were other representatives of the right-wing conservative political camp at a meeting: Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulidis, Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, as well as their counterparts Kyriakos Mitsotakis (Greece) and Alexander De Croo (EU Presidency Belgium). traveled to Cairo with Egyptian President Fattah al-Sisi – is intended to promote cooperation in areas such as renewable energy, green technologies, trade and security, while providing grants, loans and other financing over the next three years to support Egypt’s flagging economy.

“Milestone” in relationships

Von der Leyen spoke after the signing of the agreement of a “milestone” in relations and highlighted Egypt’s strategic role amid a very difficult neighborhood. Al-Sisi called the deal a “significant step forward” in shared relations. In order to contain the Middle East conflict, Palestine would have to be represented as a full member of the United Nations. Currently only observer status applies.

All heads of state and government present agreed that an early ceasefire in the Gaza war must be the goal in order to avoid another humanitarian catastrophe. “There is a threat of famine,” said von der Leyen, “we cannot allow that.” In this context, an Israeli attack on Rafah would be fatal. But all Israeli hostages would also have to be released by the Islamist Hamas.

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi mit Ursula von der Leyen Bild: (APA/AFP/EGYPTIAN PRESIDENCY/-)

Egypt’s economic situation is threatening to worsen due to the conflicts in Ukraine (increased grain prices), Sudan and the Gaza Strip, which in turn could increase migration numbers to Europe. The financial package includes grants for bilateral (400 million) and migration-specific projects (200 million) such as the care of third-country nationals or border protection. Five billion will be paid out in tranches as macro-financial aid in loans, and 1.8 billion will be made available for investments.

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According to estimates, there are around six to seven million intra-African refugees living in Egypt alone (mainly from Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea), but officially the numbers are far lower. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has registered almost 500,000 people with recognized refugee status. Recently, the number of migrants who want to cross from Libya to Greece and thus to the EU has also been increasing.

Nehammer: “Egypt ready for many collaborations”

The agreement also serves to regulate “orderly immigration into the labor market,” explained Chancellor Nehammer (ÖVP). “Egypt is ready for a lot of cooperation here and, above all, it is a very interesting market for Austrian companies,” he summed up. At the same time, however, the basis must be created to “bring back” those Egyptians and other migrants “who are not allowed to stay in Austria” more quickly through a bilateral repatriation agreement.

Egypt is experiencing enormous population growth, the Chancellor continued. A further million people would be added to the country with a population of 110 million every year. But this means an “unbelievable” burden on the infrastructure. “It is therefore in Egypt’s interest that skilled workers can enter the European labor market in an orderly manner.” There, in turn, they would also be needed because of the contrasting demographic development.

“We are therefore not allowed to rest”

In principle, Nehammer also stated that the agreement was “an important step, but we cannot rest on our laurels.” On the contrary: “In the fight against illegal migration, we in the EU must pull out all the stops, break taboos and take new paths. The goal must be that we can carry out asylum procedures in safe third countries and also carry out deportations to safe third countries.”

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What is important is an agreement “at eye level,” after all, Egypt is a key partner in both economic and security policy issues, Nehammer postulated. However, the agreement concluded on Sunday reached a new level of relations. “We see a lot of potential for cooperation.” First of all, there needs to be trust in the clear commitment “that we want to invest in the Egyptian economy because we believe in the people of Egypt.” In general, cooperation with African countries is also important given the competition with China or the USA, but increasingly also Latin America.

The EU delegation visits Egyptian President Abdel Farrah al-Sisi Image: (APA/AFP/EGYPTIAN PRESIDENCY/-)

The EU also wants to support Egypt on issues such as “democracy” and “human rights”. The Chancellor explained: “Human rights are a central issue for every European politician because they are our identity and also our DNA.” In order to further develop human rights, trust and the framework conditions must also be created “so that this is actually possible”.

Criticism from the FPÖ: “Marketing stunt”

Criticism of the deal came from the FPÖ. “Apparently, as with Turkey and Tunisia, this is a marketing stunt as a calming pill before the EU elections,” said FPÖ MEP Harald Vilimsky in a broadcast on Sunday. “Under the motto ‘In the evening the lazy person gets busy’ – they are now trying to prevent an impending mega-election loss, although it is clear to everyone that so far not a single EU measure has led to a solution to the illegal migration problem. And that is how it will be this time.”

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The SPÖ-EU leading candidate Andreas Schieder complained: “Posting photos from this trip alone will not bring a solution to the migration issue.” Here, too, it is clear that the conservatives and right-wingers are not interested in real solutions for the people of Europe, said Schieder in a broadcast. However, the European People’s Party (EPP) paid tribute. Manfred Weber, EPP party leader and group leader in the European Parliament, said: “Today’s agreement proves once again: Under the leadership of the EPP, we are solving the important challenges.”

The EU had already concluded similar deals with Mauritania, Turkey and Tunisia. But these were also met with criticism. The agreement with Egypt is also viewed with suspicion by NGO representatives and migration experts. Refugee organizations believe that human rights are not being protected. As a result, migrants would simply resort to “more dangerous routes” when fleeing.


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