By James Moran, Head of the EU Delegation in Egypt
Given our historical ties, the common challenges we face and the opportunities for the future, the EU’s partnership with Egypt is more important than ever. Over the past ten years, relations have been conducted primarily within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), which has been the basis for our cooperation with countries around the EU borders.
But the ENP has not always been able to offer adequate responses to the fast changing aspirations of our partners. And by the same token, the EU’s own interests have not been fully served either.
That is why the EU has begun a far-reaching review of this policy. Last month the EU’s High Representative Federica Mogherini and Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy Johannes Hahn launched a four month consultation with all our partners on the way forward.
In the review I believe we need to look at four key points:
First: What can we do to increase the scope for differentiation in the way we work with our partners? Some partners in the east are embarking on association and deep trade agreements – and while the scope of these has not been exhausted, they aspire to do more. We also have partners in the south who are equally willing to work on very ambitious new agreements with us.
And we have a range of partners in both the east and the south, who have varying wishes to interact with us. On top of this, we need to work more closely with the ‘neighbours of our neighbours’, both bilaterally and through our growing cooperation with key partners like the Arab League.
All this calls for some new ways of working. We need to do more to recognise that our partners are very diverse not only on the East/South divide, but also within the two areas.
This brings me to ownership. We will never get the best from this policy unless it is a partnership actively and freely chosen by both sides – a partnership of equals. This means that the new ENP must reflect the views and experience of our partners. And we need to ensure that we both put our energy into areas where both sides have shared interests to pursue.
I believe that to achieve greater common ownership we will above all need to generate more visible results with tangible benefits for our populations. People want to see results within a shorter timeframe, in order to understand if a policy has paid off.
My third point is therefore focus: we should get away from the current practise where we try to cover a very wide range of sectors and activities with every partner. For those that really want it, and who are able to do it, we should continue to pursue wide-ranging cooperation, helping the country align with EU standards. But, for those who do not want, or can’t, engage with us so deeply, let’s explore other forms of cooperation.
Trade and mobility have been the traditional focus points, and they remain fundamental. The EU is still the largest trading partner and foreign investor in Egypt, as we saw recently at the Sharm economic conference, where the bulk of FDI came from EU sources. And the migration and mobility agenda has become yet more important in recent times.
But we should also consider other matters that have been neglected in some ways up to now – for example energy – both our energy security and that of our partners; and we must do more to face up to common threats to security, especially those involving terrorism, organised crime and frozen conflicts.
Last but by no means least, we need to be more flexible: this means being able to react more effectively and expeditiously to changing circumstances, and to crises as and when they arise.
These are just some of the ideas that you will find in the consultation paper that is now on the Delegation website. Here in Egypt, we have already begun consultations with the authorities and other stakeholder groups, and Southern Neighbourhood Foreign Ministers are scheduled to meet with their EU counterparts in Barcelona next week to discuss the matter.
That said, we are determined to consult as widely as possible, so that a policy that is really fit for purpose can be designed. I would encourage all who are interested to take a look at the consultation paper and to submit their views
Some people ask whether all this talk of pursuing interests means that we are giving up on our values. The answer is very clearly no. The promotion of democracy, human rights and rule of law is a defining characteristic of the EU.
It is my view that the values that are at the core of the EU are also in the best interests of development in Egypt. Let me cite an example: rule of law is key to attracting outside investment and a fair and transparent legal framework with a system free from corruption are not only values in themselves, but also key factors driving the future prosperity of the country, indispensable to creating an environment for inclusive growth.
Let us make no mistake: our current and future well-being is deeply interconnected with conditions in the wider region. Fulfilling the great potential of our relations with Egypt, and building more robust relations with the region as a whole will make all our countries safer, better and more prosperous places to live for all our citizens.