CAIRO: “For one and a half years we have been working on the basis of our agreement, ‘Neighbourhood Action Plan’ so it is time for evaluation [especially] in the new economic and financial situation, said Klaus Ebermann, ambassador and head of the delegation of the European Commission to Egypt, at a press conference Monday.
Ebermann held a press conference to discuss the achievements of the EU-Egypt cooperation in 2008 and the new projects for 2009.
“We have pledged to spend up to ?500 million in Egypt’s modernization up until 2010 and we are very well on track, said Ebermann.
Since 2004, he said, trade has grown by 20 percent annually, bringing the total volume of bilateral trade to ?20 billion.
The same applies to foreign direct investment as Europe is now the second largest investor with ?4.1 billion falling right under the United States which has ?4.9 billion and much more than the Arab countries altogether, which collectively invest ?2.1 billion in Egypt.
Ebermann explained that before the end of 2008, the EU Commission will be giving ?149 million under this program. “It is worth noting that a main part of our expenditure will be going to the reforms of both the health sector and the education sector, said Ebermann.
The allocation of the fund will be as follows: ?80 million for the reform of the transport system, ?20 million for the education sector, ?29 million for water and waste water projects, ?17 million for civil and political rights and ?3 million for good governance issues.
Ebermann recalls that the most interesting achievement was giving visibility for 30 projects which will be implemented in 2009. “Not a lot of money is put into the projects, approximately ?1 or 2 million each, since the objective is acquiring the best experience from the EU government and management, he said. The projects are in a variety of sectors including postal service, maritime, waste management and telecommunications.
He also recalls the recent visit of a delegation from the European Parliament to Egypt, during which they met with representatives from the government, business, civil society and political parties and were “able to see Egypt from many angles.
However, Ebermann found the most remarkable experience this year to be the signing of the memorandum of understanding by Jean-Claude Trichet, president of the European Central Bank, and Farouk El-Okda, president of the Egyptian Central Bank, last November.
“I was personally impressed when El-Okda said that this cooperation has helped Egypt and the Egyptian financial system withstand its ground during the turbulent financial crisis, he said.
Two key areas the European Commission will be investing in are transport and energy. There will be a project for upgrading and transforming the Egyptian transport infrastructure. An agreement between the EU and Egypt will also be signed today in Brussels for investment in energy.
“Our way into the cooperation between Egypt and the EU is via broad consultation which leads into green paper which leads into white paper, said Ebermann.
He explained that green paper is a traditional approach that involves public consultation through which all parties concerned and interested in any project are considered and analyzed. The white paper refers to the proposal for the project.
On a final note, Ebermann said, “Our duty is to support Egypt’s own government and society to bring about modernization.