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Egypt: Bilateral Relations Egypt

28.06.2019 - Article

Political relations

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, the overall policy aim being to maintain long-term stability. 

After a phase of political uncertainty, a new Constitution was adopted in January 2014 and a new parliament elected in January 2016. President al-Sisi, who has been in office since 2014, was re-elected in March 2018. April 2019 saw far-reaching constitutional amendments which retroactively extended the President’s term and allowed his re-election, but also expanded the power of the military and restricted that of the judiciary.

Project work and migration dialogue

With its projects, the Federal Government is supporting processes to modernise society and bring about democratic change in the country. These are key components for a stable Egypt in the long term. 

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. 

In August 2017, Egypt and Germany reached a political agreement on cooperation in the area of migration. The agreement provides, among other things, for a series of measures to combat the causes of migration, as well as for cooperation on the repatriation and voluntary return of Egyptians to their homeland and support for refugees and their host communities in Egypt.

High-level visits

Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel was in Sharm el-Sheikh on 24 and 25 February 2019 to attend the first ever European Union-League of Arab States Summit. 

Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Peter Altmaier visited Egypt from 2 to 4 February 2019, holding meetings with President al-Sisi, Prime Minister Madbouly and other Government ministers. During the trip, he opened the 5th session of the German-Egyptian Joint Economic Commission. 

President al-Sisi attended the Munich Security Conference (15-17 February 2019) and met with Federal Chancellor Merkel on its fringes. He had previously visited Berlin from 28 to 31 October 2018. On the margins of the G20 Compact with Africa Conference, he met Federal Chancellor Merkel, Federal President Steinmeier and Federal Ministers Maas, Altmaier, Müller, Seehofer and Scheuer, as well as Bundestag President Schäuble

On 4 July 2018, Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas had a meeting with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in Berlin. Their talks focused on bilateral relations and regional issues. 

A series of two-way visits has also strengthened bilateral relations at the parliamentary level. 

Vice-President of the German Bundestag Thomas Oppermann visited Cairo from 24 to 27 February 2019, meeting Prime Minister Madbouly, members of the Egyptian parliament, Coptic Pope Tawadros II, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar and representatives of civil society. 

A group of Egyptian parliamentarians visited Berlin in February 2019 for talks with members of the German Bundestag and various Federal ministries.

Economic relations and development cooperation

Economic Relations

Germany and Egypt enjoy intensive economic and trade relations. In 2018, bilateral trade was worth just under 4.5 billion euros. 

Infrastructure projects in which German companies are involved – in the energy sector, for example, and in underground engineering – are developing positively. Restrictions on the conversion of the Egyptian pound into euros have now been lifted. The International Monetary Fund regards the reform programme it negotiated with Egypt as largely successful from a macroeconomic viewpoint. 

Egypt’s economic and investment climate continues to develop positively, although given the numerous administrative hurdles, large companies have an easier time than small and medium-sized companies. State-owned enterprises, many of which are controlled by the Egyptian military, are playing an increasing role in the country’s economic life; more and more frequently, they are competing with private businesses. In September 2018, Egypt introduced new import duties of between 20 and 60 percent on numerous products. In principle, Egypt remains a desirable trading partner and – with considerable reservations concerning the public administration’s efficiency in particular – an attractive destination for investment. However, payment guarantees are generally recommended. 

The Egyptian Government’s current economic policy is dominated by major infrastructure projects (development of the Suez Canal Area, construction of a new administrative capital, land reclamation, expansion of electricity production and distribution, introduction of renewable energies into the energy mix). However, impetus is also coming from other areas, such as the manufacturing sector and food industries. 

Provided that travel and security advice is heeded, Egypt offers unique opportunities for tourists, whether they are seeking cultural or beach holidays. Although security-related incidents had caused tourist numbers to fall, the number of tourists visiting the country rose again in 2018. 

The Cairo-based German-Arab Chamber of Industry and Commerce, which is mainly responsible for Egypt, was established 65 years ago. Germany Trade & Invest (gtai) also has a correspondent in Cairo. German companies operating in Egypt have commercial agents in the country and in some cases their own offices and production facilities

Development cooperation

Egypt is a key country for German development policy. With a current portfolio of 1.6 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, efforts to improve the status of women and girls, administrative reform and measures to promote participatory urban development in the Greater Cairo metropolitan area. 

In 2018 the German Government pledged around 129 million euros in funding for new measures in these areas, mainly in the form of loans. The two Governments have agreed to further intensify cooperation, particularly in the form of a long-term training initiative.

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 many projects in the country.

Culture and education

Four German Schools – founded in 1873, 1884, 1904 and 1998 – 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 4,000 students. There are also 26 private and state partner schools offering enhanced German instruction, either through the German Language Certificate (DSD) or through the FIT certificate offered by the Goethe-Institut. The Federal Office of Administration - Central Agency for Schools Abroad has had a regional office in Cairo since 2008. Altogether, the number of people learning German is estimated to be 338,000. 

The branches of the Goethe-Institut in Cairo (opened in 1958) and Alexandria (1959) offer extensive language programmes and library facilities and also organise numerous cultural events, although scope for these is limited owing to repressive state measures. 

German departments exist at a number of higher education institutions, including at Al-Azhar, Ain Shams, Helwan, Cairo, Menoufia, Minia, October 6, MUST and Luxor, with a total of around 12,000 students enrolled in teacher training and supplementary programmes. German instruction at the universities is supported by four German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) lectors and four language assistants. In addition, the Goethe‑Institut provides assistance to the Egyptian Ministry of Education in training teachers of German. 

The Cairo branch of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) was established in 1907. Its main focus is on excavation projects, for instance at Elephantine and Dahshur, and it has also restored historic Islamic buildings in the Old City of Cairo. In recent years, numerous projects in the country have been funded by the Cultural Preservation Programme of the Federal Foreign Office.

Science and research

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has had offices in Cairo since 1960. By providing scholarships to more than 1500 Egyptian and German students and researchers every year, it helps to maintain strong and vibrant scientific and academic ties between Egypt and Germany. Besides the DAAD, seven German universities and research institutions are represented in Cairo: the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Orient-Institut Beirut, Technische Universität Berlin, the Technical University of Munich, Freie Universität Berlin and Philipps-Universität Marburg. 

There are also three co-funded scholarship programmes as well as a bilateral German-Egyptian research fund. As part of the transformation partnership with Egypt, Germany is offering additional scholarship and exchange programmes, as well as funding programmes to further develop bilateral cooperation in higher education. There are currently some 1250 Egyptian Master’s students and 550 Egyptian PhD students enrolled in German universities. Since 2016, under the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative Fund (DAFI), the Federal Foreign Office has awarded 30 scholarships each year to academically gifted refugees to enable them to study at selected universities in Egypt. 

One priority area of bilateral cooperation is climate and environmental protection. The Cairo Climate Talks have, since November 2011, included regular public discussions and expert workshops. This series of events offers a platform for sharing experiences and raising awareness. Here, the German Embassy works together closely with Egypt’s Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs and German intermediaries on the ground. 

In addition, Germany supports the German University in Cairo (GUC), which, with a student body of more than 12,000, is the largest transnational German education project abroad. A private Egyptian university, it is funded entirely by private Egyptian investors and through tuition fees. However, it also receives support from the German Government and partnered German universities (Ulm, Stuttgart and Tübingen) for its teaching activities and for research cooperation. Since 2011, funds have also been provided for scholarships. The GUC is one of Egypt’s best universities. Many of its 72 courses of study are recognised by German accreditation agencies. The GUC opened a campus in Berlin in January 2013. 

In October 2012, Technische Universität Berlin opened a campus in El Gouna on the Red Sea offering five Master’s programmes: in Energy Engineering, Water Engineering, Urban Development, Business Engineering Energy and IT for Energy. The DAAD supports this transnational education project by providing scholarships. 

In February 2019, Federal Minister Altmaier laid the foundation stone for the German International University (GIU). This new university of applied sciences is the result of an agreement reached in late 2018 between a consortium of German universities of applied sciences and the Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. 

There are numerous binational Master’s programmes which allow students to study in Germany and Egypt, 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), German as a Foreign Language (Leipzig and Ain Shams Universities), Heritage Conservation and Site Management (BTU Cottbus, the German Archaeological Institute and Helwan University), Museum Studies (Würzburg and Helwan Universities), and Comparative & Middle East Politics and Society (University of Tübingen and the American University in Cairo).

Additional content

Egypt is a partner country of German development cooperation. For more information please visit the website of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development

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