We are living through a health crisis on a historic scale with the speed and scope of its global reach quite unprecedented.
While the novel coronavirus pandemic is showing us the vulnerabilities of our societies and economies, it also clearly demonstrates the importance of adopting a global approach, multi-level cooperation, and standing together.
This is not the only common challenge we are facing. Climate change, some call it a climate crisis, is also increasingly affecting our daily lives. We sometimes hear it may be unrealistic to call for stronger global action to fight climate change in the midst of the pandemic.
In fact, the case is now more pertinent than ever. Living in Egypt, I am fully aware of the importance of water. And we are facing droughts and swarms of locusts in many parts of Africa, floods in Pakistan, infrastructure collapsing in Siberia as permafrost melts, fires in Australia, hurricanes in the US, and typhoons in Asia. All these only confirm the necessity for working together.
Even before the pandemic, the European Union (EU) committed to leading a green transition. Back in December 2019, we launched the European Green Deal, a new growth model and roadmap to achieve carbon neutrality in the EU by 2050.
Now, two years later, we are aligning our policies in areas ranging from energy to industry, farming, food, or biodiversity with our sustainability goals.
Another challenge we face is as to how our societies and economies can successfully reshape globalisation and rebuild a multilateral system that can handle major challenges. The EU is a defender of an effective and rules-based multilateralism.
We will continue to uphold international norms and agreements that help improve lives today and protect generations tomorrow. In that respect, I would like to stress our commitment to the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.
Along with the UN and our partners, we pursue an innovative agenda in areas in need of strengthened multilateral governance. On its 10th anniversary, the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU’s diplomatic service tasked with foreign and security affairs, plays a key role and sees this a key task.
Egypt is for us a strategic partner in the region, with a long historical friendship between our peoples. Our partnership is more than ever relevant today. I have been in Egypt only since September, time enough to see the remarkable range of areas of our cooperation with a strong socio-economic impact and benefits, from water, to environment, to gender to education to name but a few areas. I would like to see this already strong cooperation further reinforced.
The difficult times we are currently experiencing globally present an opportunity to reflect on our partnership.
We face a number of challenges exacerbated by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The EU and Egypt will continue to cooperate in advancing socio-economic goals set out in Egypt’s “Sustainable development strategy – Vision 2030”, with a view to building a stable and prosperous Egypt enjoying sustainable socio-economic development.
It should include, as a matter of priority, joining forces to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as continue and strengthen cooperation on economic modernisation and entrepreneurship. This also includes trade and investment, social development and social justice, energy security, the environment and climate action.
Since March 2020, the “Team Europe” (the EU Member States together with the European Union Institutions and Banks) has contributed to Egypt’s COVID-19 response by providing a framework of €250m to help mitigate the impact of the outbreak and the resulting humanitarian, socio-economic and sanitary needs.
This is being done through budget support (a package of €89m was agreed with Minister for International Cooperation Rania Al-Mashat in December last year). Yet another good example of what the multilateral approach means is a project in support of vulnerable groups with the aim protect them from the risk of further infections (signed in January with Minister of Social Solidarity, Nevine El-Kabbaj).
It is the result of close consultations with the Government of Egypt and UNDP on the best way forward to fight this pandemic jointly. In one word: solidarity and close cooperation, especially during challenging times.
The year 2021 will also be marked by a complete overhaul of the way the EU cooperates with its partners, with a new comprehensive financial tool to be officially adopted in March 2021. This will help us be more cohesive internally and more flexible and responsive to new emerging priorities and challenges we and our partners need to confront.
As an illustration of the importance the EU attached to the entire Euro-Mediterranean neighbourhood – in which Egypt has pride of place – the EU is also reflecting on how to renew the partnership with its Southern Neighbourhood in an ambitious way and taking into account the new challenges we face on either side of the Mediterranean.
I have focused on the immediate fallout of the COVID- 19 pandemic, but it is also important to underline that our cooperation is much broader with shared interest of the EU and Egypt in working on security and stability in the immediate neighbourhood and the wider region, on upholding commitments to universal values, the rule of law and the respect for human rights as part of our comprehensive partnership.
Global challenges require global solutions. We should continue striving to overcome the unprecedented but shared challenges. Together we will thrive, for us and for the future generations.
Christian Berger, Ambassador of the European Union to Egypt