Thu, 22 Oct 2020 - 03:50 GMT
Head of the EU mission to Egypt, Christian Berger, in a meeting with reporters in Cairo on Wednesday, on the sidelines of Cairo Water Week- press photo
CAIRO - 22 October 2020: The European Union (EU) is supporting the negotiation process on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) among Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, under the brokerage of the African Union, announced Head of the EU mission to Egypt, Christian Berger, in a meeting with reporters in Cairo on Wednesday, on the sidelines of Cairo Water Week.
“We support that role and we support the negotiations that are ongoing [...] There are talks going on and we as the European Union will continue our services,” he said.
Answering a question by Egypt Today on the possible reaction of the European Union in case the three countries fail to reach a comprehensive agreement, he said, “We want the political process and this negotiation process to succeed. So that's where we are. We are putting our weight behind us. We're supporting the chair that is running these negotiations [In an indication to the African Union]. I think that's where we are at the moment. I would not speculate about any measures that may come down the road.”
The difference between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia dates back to May 2011 when Ethiopia started building the dam; Egypt voiced concern over its water share [55.5 billion cubic meters]. Three years later, a series of tripartite talks between the two countries along with Sudan began while Ethiopia continued the dam construction. In 2015, the three countries signed the Declaration of Principles, per which the downstream countries should not be negatively affected by the construction of the dam. Since then, the negotiations have been ongoing without reaching a final and comprehensive agreement.
Support for Water Sector
The EU and the Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources are discussing a new project titled “EU for Water”, where the EU contributed by a grant of €20 million, according to the ambassador in a roundtable with a group of journalists at Cairo's Fairmont Hotel.
The EU has co-financed several water-related projects in 14 governorates; in Upper Egypt, for instance, there are ongoing projects in Assiut, Qena, Beni Seuif, and Minya at a total cost of €303 million, including €23 million in grants from the EU, according to Ayman Ayad, who is responsible for the water file at the EU mission to Egypt.
In September 2020, the EU ambassador made a visit to a water purification plant in Mahallah al-Kobra city (Egypt’s Delta), the first phase of which has been completed, to help the local communities clean and reuse the water, according to Ayad.
“We're trying to have a comprehensive approach to this whole water issue. So we're coming from different angles, helping, of course, in the end with one thing, improve water quality and quantity,” he said.
Direct grants provided to Egypt from the European Union (EU) and its partners for the water sector have reached €500 million, leveraging €3 million in concessional loans, in a bid to find solutions and achieve sustainability in the water sector amid the scarcity the region of the Mediterranean Sea faces.
The total programs reached 20 projects across 14 governorates, benefiting 18.5 million residents (40 percent of the population in the governorates where projects are implemented), according to the EU mission’s data.
By 2024, the EU would have completed almost 12,000 km of water and wastewater network, nearly 130 wastewater treatment plants, and 75 water treatment plants. Also, a total of 250, 000 small-scale farmers’ families (covering nearly 500.000 acres) would gain an additional 15–20 percent income increase in agricultural yield through the introduction of improved sub-surface drainage systems, the data clarified. Additionally, 600, 000 short-term jobs and nearly 25.000 permanent jobs would be provided.
“Egypt has a longstanding experience with the management of water. I think Egypt, given the size and importance of the water sector here, can surely play a much stronger role,” ambassador Berger clarified.
When will the EU resume tourism and flights to Egypt?
In a question by Egypt Today about the steps that would be taken by the European Union (EU) to resume aviation and tourism to Egypt, Head of the EU mission to Egypt Ambassador Christian Berger said, “When the the pandemic started, the European Union closed the borders for the people who are coming into the European countries and most of European Union countries issued a decision for Europeans not to travel outside the European Union unless it is necessary. So they didn't really prevent Europeans from coming to Egypt [...], the world is going through a critical moment."
He continued that the restrictions started easing at the end of July and the beginning of August; then a committee was formed in Brussels to monitor the situation every two weeks and issue a list of countries where it is safe to travel. Then the member states issue their own travel advice to these countries.
Berger added that the EU member states are coordinating with each other to handle the situation, as there is no consensus among the member states, “some countries allow their citizens to go and other countries said, no, you better wait.”
The EU mission head also stated that the Stockholm-based European Centre for Disease Prevention issues every Thursday a list or a map that shows the infection rates in different places to help people. “So there's a constant review of the situation that is always done on the basis of the infection rate,” he said.
Ambassador Berger described his visit to Sharm El-Sheikh at Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled Anani’s invitation as “very important and useful for tourism as it sheds light on the measures taken by the Egyptian government from the moment of arrival at the airport until going to the hotel."
Economically, Ambassador Berger praised the Egyptian economy, saying “Egypt may be one of the very few countries in the Middle East that will have growth.” “In the European Union, the prediction is that the overall growth will go down by about 7.4 percent. And actually, we have a lot of issues with the macroeconomic indicators. So the growth rate will be minus seven.”
He explained that this slowdown of growth would have an impact on Egypt as the worldwide trade is going down.