Germany reaches out to Egypt. By Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle

24.02.2011 - Interview

Published in the Egyptian newspaper Al Masri Al Youm on 24 February 2011


During the last few weeks, the world has been watching with great admiration as events in Egypt unfolded. At a tremendous cost and with unbridled passion, millions of people in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez have pushed wide open the door to freedom and democracy in the most important country in the Arab world. Tahrir Square became the focus of a peaceful revolution for which, in the light of our own history, we Germans have particular respect and sympathy.

Scenes we had not seen since 1989 were relayed from Cairo around the world. The Tunisian and Egyptian peoples have brought about a watershed which is of significance far beyond these two countries. The other countries in your region will not be able to fall back behind the example you have set.

Our sympathy is with you as you struggle to establish democracy and the rule of law and to generate more prosperity. We share your hope that you can make the democratic change irreversible. In this you have our full solidarity and support.

You – the Egyptians – must decide for yourselves which road you want to take and how quickly you want to advance. I believe that the first measures taken, such as the dissolution of Parliament and the launch of constitutional reform, are precisely the right decisions. That also goes for the announcement that free and fair elections will be held within six months.

Furthermore, I welcome the interim government’s declared intention to honour regional and international agreements. For it is important to us as partners and friends of Egypt that there is peace not only within Egypt but throughout the region. Egypt has always played a crucial role in the Middle East peace process. For many decades, it has acted with great courage and level-headedness. Durable and stable peace in the Middle East is absolutely vital, not only to the region but also to us Germans and Europeans.

Egypt will shape its own future. We Germans and Europeans are willing to help the Egyptian people establish a flourishing and democratic Egypt. We can make concrete offers should Egypt so wish.

Freedom and a vibrant civil society provide the environment in which democracy can flourish. Freedom of opinion and of the press are essential.

Free and fair elections and the setting up of independent political parties form the backbone of democracy.

Education is a valuable asset for the future. Egypt has an exemplary tradition in education – Cairo is home to one of the oldest universities in the world. Every year, hundreds of thousands of school-leavers throng the job market. We want to give young Egyptians new opportunities through increased academic exchange, additional scholarships and a vocational training initiative.

Economic development is crucial for ensuring that freedom also brings prosperity. After the US, Germany is Egypt’s second largest trading partner and major German companies have created tens of thousands of jobs in Egypt. In this phase of such decisive importance to Egypt, we have approached German business and encouraged it to invest more in your country. Furthermore, we want Europe to open its markets to more products from Egypt and the region. We would support an international conference in Egypt on the country’s future.

Germany is and will remain a friend and partner to Egypt. We rejoice with Egypt about the opportunity for freedom which the peaceful protest has created. We are ready and willing to help ensure that the democratic movement can be transformed into a stable and prosperous democracy.

Guido Westerwelle

Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany

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