Last updated in October 2017
Germany and Egypt have long had close and diverse relations. Germany is continuing its efforts to help Egypt build a modern democratic state. The German Government is watching the human rights situation in the country closely, with the overall policy aim being to maintain long-term stability.
The convening of Egypt’s newly elected House of Representatives 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.
Transformation partnership and migration dialogue
Since its launch 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 are focusing 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.
The interministerial German-Egyptian Steering Committee reaffirmed and concretised the aims of the Berlin Declaration at its meeting on 29 November 2012 in Berlin, which was presided over by the two countries’ foreign ministers.
On 28 July 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 cooperation on the repatriation and voluntary return of Egyptians back to their homeland and support for refugees and their host communities in Egypt.
Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Egypt in March 2017, holding talks with, among others, Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar, the Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria and civil society representatives.
In June 2017, President al-Sisi travelled to Berlin on the invitation of Federal Chancellor Merkel to attend the G20 Africa Partnership conference. During his visit to Germany, he also attended a meeting of the German-Egyptian Joint Economic Commission in Berlin.
On 27 August 2017, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry met with his German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel in Berlin. Their meeting focused on bilateral cooperation as well as regional issues. Foreign Minister Shoukry had previously visited Germany from 11 to 13 January 2017 as a guest of then Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Food and Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt visited Cairo in April 2017, and Economic Cooperation and Development Minister Gerd Müller was in Egypt in October 2017 to attend the second high-level Bilateral Commission on Development Cooperation.
A series of two-way visits has also strengthened bilateral relations at the parliamentary level.
In October 2016, the Chairman of the German Bundestag Subcommittee on Cultural and Education Policy Abroad, Bernd Fabritius, and the Director for Research and Academic Relations Policy and Cultural Relations Policy, Heidrun Tempel, visited Cairo to attend the inauguration of the new Goethe-Institut building in the Dokki district.
In December 2016, following the bomb attack on a Coptic cathedral in Cairo, the Chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the German Bundestag, Volker Kauder, visited the Egyptian capital.
Germany’s then Vice-President of the German Bundestag, Johannes Singhammer, 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.
Five Members of the German Bundestag visited Cairo from 12 to 15 March 2017 as part of a delegation of the German-Egyptian Parliamentary Friendship Group. The delegation was headed by the Group’s Chairwoman Karin Maag.
Economic relations and development cooperation
Germany and Egypt enjoy close economic relations, especially in the area of trade. In the first six months of 2017, the volume of trade between the two countries increased by approximately 20 percent over the same period last year to 3.3 billion euros. The meeting of the German-Egyptian Joint Economic Commission in June 2017, attended by both Heads of Government, underscored Egypt’s importance for German trade and industry.
Infrastructure projects in which German companies are involved, such as those in the energy and special civil engineering sectors, are developing positively. In the first six months of 2017, however, restrictions introduced on the conversion of the Egyptian pound into euros or US dollars had a negative effect. These restrictions have since been lifted by the Egyptian central bank. The reform programme that has been negotiated with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is on track according to the IMF’s initial assessment; the next assessment is scheduled for October 2017. Egypt’s economic and investment climate has developed positively since mid-2013 but is still not favourable, especially for small and medium-sized companies. Bureaucratic hurdles and insufficient communication between Egyptian authorities cause delays in approval procedures. State-owned enterprises, some of which are controlled by the Egyptian military, continue to play a major role in the country’s economic life. For Egyptians, imports have become more than twice as expensive since the devaluation of the pound in November 2016, whereby Egyptian products have benefited to a certain extent from increased competitiveness in global markets. 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. However, payment guarantees are generally recommended.
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 current economic policy of the Egyptian Government focuses on extensive infrastructure projects, such as developing the Suez Canal Area, land reclamation, increasing electricity production and distribution as well as introducing renewable energies into the energy mix. Impetus, however, is also coming from other areas, such as the manufacturing and food industries.
With its unique cultural monuments that testify to its 5000-year-old history, and with its good weather, Egypt is a prime destination for both beach holidays and cultural tours. Although security-related incidents had caused tourist numbers to plummet, the number of tourists visiting the country has been rising again since the end of 2016.
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 3300 member companies. Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI) also has a correspondent in Cairo. The German companies operating in Egypt have commercial agents in the country and in some cases their own offices and production facilities.
Egypt is a key country for German development policy. With a current portfolio of 1.6 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 one of Egypt’s principal development cooperation partners.
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 is providing support for projects, including those dealing with the issue of population change, the construction of primary schools, industrial environmental protection and administrative reform, as well as support for Egypt’s Population Council and for 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 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. The Bilateral Commission met again at ministerial level in October 2017 in Cairo. Egypt’s Electricity Minister Mohammed Shaker, Education Minister Tarek Shawky and Environmental Affairs Minister Khaled Fahmy also attended the meeting. The two Governments agreed to intensify their cooperation. 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. In 2016, the cultural agreement was expanded by an exchange of notes verbales to also include the Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA). Germany’s principal cultural intermediaries have a prominent presence in Egypt and are implementing numerous projects in the country. A host of 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 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 4500 students. There are also numerous private and state partner schools offering enhanced German instruction, leading in some cases to the German Language Certificate (DSD) and in others to the Goethe-Zertifikat: Fit in Deutsch of the Goethe-Institut. There are now 30 schools in Egypt belonging to the global Schools: Partners for the Future initiative (PASCH). The Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA) has had a regional office in Cairo since 2008.
The branches of the Goethe Institut in Cairo and Alexandria, which opened in 1958 and 1963 respectively, offer extensive language programmes and library facilities as well as organise numerous cultural events. They also offer seminars and further training courses in the education and cultural spheres, focusing in particular on the freedom that still exists in the arts and the creative sector, despite the stringent security measures and intense debates on security issues that currently dominate the situation.
There are approximately 900,000 students learning German as a foreign language at state schools in Egypt. German departments exist at a number of higher education institutions, including at Al-Azhar, Ain Shams, Helwan, Cairo, Menoufia, Minia, October 6, MUST and South Valley Universities, with a total of around 12,000 students enrolled in teacher training and supplementary programmes. German instruction at the universities is supported by seven DAAD lectors and four language assistants. In addition, the Goethe Institut provides assistance to the Egyptian Ministry of Education in training German-language teachers.
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.
Science and academia
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, Technische Universität Berlin, the Technical University of Munich, Freie Universität Berlin and Philipps-Universität Marburg. Up until the end of 2016, the above-mentioned institutions and the Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA) were housed in the same building as the German Science Centre (DWZ) in Cairo, which was inaugurated by Germany’s then Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in 2012 (www.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 is offering additional scholarship and exchange programmes, as well as funding programmes to further develop bilateral cooperation in higher education. Under the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative Fund (DAFI), the Federal Foreign Office has since 2016 been awarding 30 scholarships each year to academically gifted refugees to enable them to study at selected universities in Egypt.
A priority area of bilateral cooperation is climate and environmental protection. The Cairo Climate Talks (www.cairoclimatetalks.net) have, since November 2011, included monthly public discussions and expert workshops. The 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 is working closely together 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 German 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, 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 and IT for Energy. The DAAD is supporting 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).
This text is intended as a source of basic information. It is regularly updated. No liability can be accepted for the accuracy or completeness of its contents.