Last updated in February 2017
Germany and Egypt have long maintained close and diverse relations. Germany is continuing its efforts to help Egypt build a modern, democratic state. The Federal Government is watching the human rights situation in Egypt closely, with the overall policy aim being to maintain long-term stability.
The convening of Egypt’s newly elected parliament in January 2016 marked the end of a period of political transition. Prior to this, a new constitution had been adopted in January 2014 and Abdul Fattah al-Sisi had been elected President in May 2014.
Launched in August 2011, Germany’s Transformation Partnership with Egypt has laid the groundwork for modernising Egyptian society and bringing about democratic change in the country.
Project-based efforts in Egypt focus on helping to establish the rule of law and good governance, as well as on promoting political inclusion, employment, a dual system of vocational training, civil society and professional media. To this end, on 12 August 2011, the two countries’ foreign ministers signed the Berlin Declaration on German support for democratic change in the country.
At its meeting on 29 November 2012 in Berlin, which was presided over by the two foreign ministers, the inter-ministerial German-Egyptian Steering Committee reaffirmed and concretised the aims of the Berlin Declaration.
external link, opens in new windowJoint Declaration by Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle and Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr at the German-Egyptian Steering Committte meeting on 29.11.2012 (PDF, 61 KB)
President al-Sisi visited Germany from 2 to 4 June 2015, holding talks with, among others, Federal President Joachim Gauck and Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and attending a meeting of the German-Egyptian Joint Economic Commission.
Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel visited Egypt three times during his tenure as Federal Economic Affairs and Energy Minister: in March 2015, in August 2015 and most recently in April 2016, to attend the 3rd Meeting of the German-Egyptian Joint Economic Commission.
Federal Interior Minister Lothar de Maizière visited Cairo in March 2016 for talks on the German-Egyptian Security Cooperation Agreement. He also gave a speech on religious tolerance at Al-Azhar University. Egypt’s Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar paid a return visit to Berlin in June 2016.
Vice-President of the German Bundestag Claudia Roth visited Cairo for political talks in April 2016. Her meetings focused on parliamentary relations and on the issue of human rights.
In October 2016, Bernd Fabritius, Chairman of the German Bundestag Subcommittee on Cultural and Education Policy Abroad, and Heidrun Tempel, the Director for Research and Academic Relations Policy and Cultural Relations Policy, visited Cairo to participate in the inauguration of the new Goethe-Institut building in the Al Doqi neighbourhood.
Following the bomb attack on a Coptic cathedral in Cairo, Volker Kauder, Chairman of the CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group in the German Bundestag, visited Cairo in December 2016.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry visited Berlin from 11 to 13 January 2017. His visit included a meeting with Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Johannes Singhammer, Vice-President of the German Bundestag, visited Egypt in February 2017, where he met with, among others, President al-Sisi, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail and members of the Egyptian House of Representatives.
Economic relations and development cooperation
Germany and Egypt enjoy close economic relations, especially in the area of trade. In 2015, bilateral trade grew by approximately 20 per cent compared with the previous year, to 5.2 billion euros. This growth is expected to continue in 2016, to a level of approx. 5.7 billion euros. The visit to Cairo by Federal Economic Affairs and Energy Minister Gabriel in April 2016, accompanied by a large business delegation, underscored Egypt’s importance for German trade and industry.
Infrastructure projects in which German companies are involved – in the energy sector, for example – are developing positively. However, the import restrictions introduced on account of the shortage of foreign exchange are having a negative effect. The reform programme that has been negotiated with the International Monetary Fund is likely to help resolve these problems. Egypt’s economic and investment climate has developed positively since mid-2013 but is still not favourable, especially for small and medium-sized companies, because of the existence of a wide range of bureaucratic hurdles. Ministerial Decrees Nos. 911 and 43, for example, list products to which import restrictions apply and declare that products must in principle be imported by an Egyptian partner company. The difficult issue of currency control has improved somewhat since the Egyptian central bank floated the country’s currency on 3 November 2016. However, numerous restrictions on the transfer of funds remain in force. This move does, nonetheless, provide a sound basis for economic calculations, and the black market for currency trading has been practically closed down. Following the devaluation, the price of imports to Egypt has more than doubled (the value of the Egyptian pound has dropped sharply since last November, from 9 to approx. 17 pounds per euro). Due to current conditions, payment guarantees are generally recommended. That said, Egypt in principle remains a desirable trading partner and – with certain reservations concerning the public administration’s efficiency – an attractive destination for investment, particularly following the currency devaluation.
Increasing trade with Egypt in goods and services and strengthening direct investment in the country depend on sustained political stability and improving the overall conditions for business (competition oversight, corporate taxation, investment protection, infrastructure measures and improving administrative efficiency).
The Egyptian government’s economic policy currently focuses on extensive infrastructure projects (developing the Suez Canal Area, road and housing construction, increasing electricity production, land reclamation). Impetus is, however, also evident in the property sector, manufacturing and the food industry.
With its unique cultural monuments that testify to its 5000-year-old history, and with its good weather, Egypt is a prime destination for beach holidays and cultural tours. Recently, however, there has been a marked decline in the number of foreign tourists, following the crashes of a Russian charter jet over the Sinai peninsula in October 2015 and that of an Egypt Air plane that was inbound from Paris in May 2016. Before this, the tourist sector had been hit hard by severe political unrest between 2011 and 2013, as well as by fighting in neighbouring countries. In the second half of 2016, there was again a slight increase in the number of tourists visiting the country.
The Cairo-based German-Arab Chamber of Industry and Commerce, which is mainly responsible for Egypt, was established 65 years ago and has more than 3,300 member companies. Germany Trade & Invest (gtai) also has an office in Cairo. The German companies operating in Egypt have commercial agents there and in some cases their own offices and production facilities.
Egypt is a key country for German development policy. With a current portfolio of 1.7 billion euros, it is one of the largest partner countries of German development cooperation. Along with the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the United States, France, the European Union and Japan, Germany is Egypt’s principal development cooperation partner.
Agreement has been reached with the Egyptian government on the following priority areas in development cooperation:
- promoting employment to foster sustainable economic development: vocational training; promoting the private sector; supporting the labour market and promoting micro, small and medium-sized businesses, in each case with a special focus on women and young people
- the water sector and waste management: drinking water supply and sanitation; agricultural irrigation and drainage; waste management
- promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency; investment, consulting and training measures in the area of wind and hydroelectric power and energy efficiency.
In addition to these agreed priority areas, Germany provides funding for projects including the construction of primary schools, industrial environmental protection, administrative reform, supporting Egypt’s Population Council and measures to promote participatory urban development in the Greater Cairo metropolitan area.
In June 2016, the first meeting of the Bilateral Commission on Development Cooperation was held in Berlin. It was presided over by Federal Economic Cooperation and Development Minister Gerd Müller and Egyptian International Cooperation Minister Sahar Nasr. At the meeting, funding worth approximately 150 million euros was pledged for new measures in the above-mentioned areas, mainly in the form of loans. However, the debt swap worth up to 240 million euros, which was agreed on in 2011, remains on ice.
Cultural, academic and scientific relations
Support for democratic change
Bilateral cultural, academic and scientific relations are essentially founded on the German-Egyptian cultural agreement of 16 October 1960 and the supplementary agreement of 10 April 1984. Germany’s principal cultural intermediaries have a prominent presence in Egypt and are running projects in the country. Numerous measures in the cultural, academic, scientific and media sectors are also being conducted as part of the Transformation Partnership.
Culture and education
Four German Schools – founded in 1873, 1884, 1904 and 1999 – provide instruction leading to the German higher education entrance qualification (Abitur). In addition, there are three other officially recognised German schools abroad (in Cairo, Alexandria and Hurghada) that are still being built up. These schools are attended by a total of some 4,500 students. There are also numerous private and state partner schools offering enhanced German instruction, and in some cases the German Language Certificate (DSD). There are now 30 schools in Egypt belonging to the global network of partner schools (PASCH initiative). The Central Agency for Schools Abroad has had a regional office in Cairo since 2008.
The branches of the Goethe‑Institut in Cairo (opened in 1958) and Alexandria (1963) offer extensive language programmes and library facilities as well as organise numerous cultural events. In addition, they offer seminars and further training courses in the education and cultural spheres, focusing in particular on the social transformation process in the wake of the Arab Spring.
There are approximately 900,000 students learning German as a foreign language at state schools in Egypt. German departments exist at Al-Azhar, Ain Shams, Helwan, Cairo, Menoufia, Minia, October 6 and MUST-Misr Universities, with a total of around 12,000 students enrolled in teacher’s training and supplementary programmes. German instruction at the universities is supported by seven DAAD academic teachers and language assistants. In addition, the Goethe‑Institut provides assistance to the Egyptian Ministry of Education in training German-language teachers.
Science and academia
The Cairo branch of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) was established in 1907. The main focus of its activities is on archaeological excavations at pharaonic sites. It also oversaw the restoration of Islamic monuments in historic Cairo. In addition, German archaeologists are involved in excavations apart from those conducted by DAI. In recent years, numerous projects have been funded by the Cultural Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office.
The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has had offices in Cairo since 1960. By providing scholarships to more than 2000 Egyptian and German students and researchers every year, it helps to maintain vibrant and strong scientific and academic ties between Egypt and Germany.
Besides the DAAD, seven German research institutions are represented in Cairo: the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Orient Institut Beirut, the Technische Universität Berlin and the Technische Universität München, the Freie Universität Berlin, Philipps-Universität Marburg and the Central Agency for Schools Abroad. Up until the end of 2016, the above-mentioned institutions were housed under the roof of the German Science Centre (DWZ) in Cairo, which was inaugurated by then Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (external link, opens in new windowwww.dwz-kairo.de).
Until funding for the DWZ ran out, it served as the key point of contact for German-Egyptian cooperation in science and research.
During the German-Egyptian Year of Science and Technology in 2007, Germany and Egypt concluded three co-funded cooperation agreements on the funding of additional scholarships. The bilateral German-Egyptian Research Fund was set up in 2008 to promote joint research projects. As part of the Transformation Partnership with Egypt, Germany offers additional scholarship and exchange programmes, as well as funding programmes to further develop bilateral cooperation in higher education.
A priority area of bilateral cooperation is climate and environmental protection. The Cairo Climate Talks (external link, opens in new windowwww.cairoclimatetalks.net) have, since November 2011, included monthly public discussions. This series of events offers a platform for sharing experiences and raising awareness, as well as promoting cooperation between the political, business and scientific sectors and civil society. Here, the German Embassy works together closely with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für International Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the DAAD and Egypt’s Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs.
Germany also supports the German University in Cairo (GUC), a private Egyptian university under local law. It is funded entirely by private Egyptian investors and through tuition fees but also receives support from the Federal Government and partnered German universities (Ulm, Stuttgart and Tübingen) for its teaching activities. In addition, the Federal Foreign Office provides funding for the secondment of German academic teachers and long-term lecturers and, since 2011, for scholarships. With a current student body of more than 12,000, the GUC is one of Egypt’s best universities. Many of its 72 study programmes are recognised by German accreditation agencies. The GUC opened a further campus in Berlin in January 2013.
In October 2012, the Technische Universität Berlin (TUB) opened a campus in El Gouna on the Red Sea offering five master’s programmes: in Energy Engineering, Water Engineering, Urban Development, Business Engineering and IT for Energy. The DAAD supports the transnational education project by providing scholarships.
There are currently a total of 19 binational master’s programmes, some of which are still being established, for example in Energy and Energy Efficiency (REMENA, Kassel and Cairo Universities), Integrated Urbanism & Sustainable Design (IUSD, Stuttgart and Ain Shams Universities), International Education Management (INEMA, PH Ludwigsburg and Helwan University) and German as a Foreign Language (Leipzig and Ain Shams Universities). New additions in 2013 were the study programme in Heritage Conservation and Site Management (BTU Cottbus, the German Archaeological Institute and Helwan University) and a master’s programme in Comparative & Middle East Politics and Society (University of Tübingen and the American University in Cairo). Since 2015, there is also a new master’s in Museum Studies (Würzburg and Helwan Universities).
During the 2016/17 winter term, GUC, TUB El Gouna and Helwan University each began offering ten scholarships to Syrian refugees. These scholarships are funded by the Federal Foreign Office and awarded by the German Academic Exchange Service.