Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi (L) – French President Emmanuel Macron (R) – Wikimedia commons Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi (L) – French President Emmanuel Macron (R) – Wikimedia commons

Macron's visit to Cairo strengthens Egyptian-French relations

Fri, Mar. 30, 2018
CAIRO – 30 October 2017: Upon the invitation of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, French President Emmanuel Macron will visit Egypt in early May on his first official visit since assuming office last year, according to an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Sisi and Macron will discuss a number of important and common issues, especially the progress of their mutual relations in various fields, along with regional issues such as the current Libyan situation and its military’s unification.

Sisi paid a visit to France in October and they discussed combating terrorism, the Palestinian cause, and regional issues, such as Syria, Libya, illegal migration and trafficking. This visit was the third since Sisi took office in 2014 and the first since French President Emmanuel Macron was elected in May 2017.

Egypt and France share long historical and contemporary relations. On this occasion, Egypt Today presents a review of the depth of relations between the two countries in the military, economic and culture fields.

Economic Relations

Trade exchanges between Egypt and France reached €1.546 billion ($1.82 billion) in the first eight months of 2017, marking an increase of 12 percent from the €1.38 achieved during the same period last year. Egyptian exports to France also rose from €332 million in 2016 to €401 million in 2017.

French investments in Egypt amount to €5 billion, represented through 160 companies hiring 30,000 employees in the sectors of food manufacturing, construction, energy, telecommunications, retail, banking, programming, medicine, transportation and tourism.

The top Egyptian exports to France are petrochemicals (€147 million), liquefied petroleum gas (€13 million), grains, citrus and vegetables.

Meanwhile, top French exports to Egypt are electronic and electric devices, information technology (IT) services, prosthesis, measuring devices, turbines, motors, visual media, cylinders, poultry, sugar, dairy products and transportation equipment. French exports to Egypt increased by 11 percent from €825.7 million in the first half of last year to €915.9 million in the same period this year.

The EU-Egypt Association Agreement activated in 2004 enabled the penetration of Egyptian goods to European markets in general and French markets in specific. In 2006, the Egyptian-French Business Council was founded to further boost partnerships.

During his last visit to France, Sisi met with a number of French businessmen to boost economic cooperation with the French side, since France is the biggest investor in Egypt with €3.5 billion worth of investments, which makes it the 7th biggest importer to Egypt. Meanwhile, there are 160 French corporations operating on Egyptian soil, employing more than 30,000 Egyptians in all fields.

During a joint press conference held in Paris with President Sisi, Macron assured France’s support to the “ambitious” economic reform program implemented by Egypt.

He added that both leaders agreed on developing economic relations in different sectors, including transport and railways.

Military Relations

Egypt has secured its first major military contract with France in about 20 years with a €1-billion deal to buy four naval frigates.

Since then, Egypt has signed more than three weapons deals with France. In 2015, Egypt signed an agreement to buy of French weapons worth €5.2 billion, including 24 Rafale combat jets made by Dassault Aviation, a multi-mission naval frigate, and air-to-air missiles.

The two countries also signed agreements for the purchase of weapons including fighter aircraft, navy vessels and a military satellite communication system worth €1 billion in 2016. Egypt also took delivery of two Mistral helicopter carriers on Friday as part of this deal.

In 2017, Sisi signed with his French counterpart Hollande a military cooperation deal that included a €1-billion contract to furnish four Gowind battleships to the Egyptian Navy and the renewal of Egypt’s stock of French-built Mirage 2000 fighter jets.

Cultural-Scientific Cooperation

Sisi agreed with his French counterpart during his last visit that the year of 2019 will be the French Culture Year in Egypt.

French-Egyptian Egyptology institutes and laboratories have unveiled many archeological discoveries. France also helped with renovating libraries, equipping museums, and collaborating in the fields of publishing, education and scientific research.

France established a university in Egypt and gives post-doctoral studies scholarships at a value of €200,000. It has also been helping to improve technology usage in the sectors of public administration and justice through training sessions for public officials and judges in the National Institute for Governance and the National Institute for Justice.

Egypt’s Francophone population amounted to 2.8 million French speakers in 2010. It became a member state in the International Francophone Organization in 1983. The first ever director-general of the organization was Egyptian diplomat Boutros Boutros Ghali, who served between 1997 and 2002.

Historical Relations

The French campaign in Egypt, which lasted for three years, between 1798 and 1801, contributed significantly to the cultural sphere, such as Jean-Francois Champollion inscribing the Rosetta Stone in 1799, opening the door for studying and exploring ancient Egyptian civilization. During the campaign, the French built the Egyptian Scientific Complex, also known as the Institut d'Égypte, which was set on fire during the January 25 Revolution in 2011.

Scientists within the campaign also wrote the “Description of Egypt” book, encompassing all known aspects of ancient and modern Egypt, as well as its natural history. The book, written by 160 civilian scholars and scientists, first appeared in 1809, and its final and 20th volume was issued in 1829. The original copies of some of its volumes were robbed when the complex was vandalized in 2011.

The Egyptian state had been granting students scholarships to study abroad since the reign of Mohamed Ali Pasha (1805-1848) until the end of the royal era in 1952. Among the most prominent students in those scholarships were intellectual Rifa’a al-Tahtawy (1801-1873) and writer and former Minister of Education Taha Hussein (1889-1973).

Visits throughout the last three years

President Sisi visited France in November 2014 and November 2016, while former French President Francois Hollande visited Egypt in April 2015 and August 2016. Reciprocal ministerial visits also took place frequently.

Sisi’s last joint press conference with Macron on human rights

Sisi urged journalists not to consider human rights exclusively in terms of political rights, during a joint conference with his French Counterpart Emmanuel Macron in Paris Tuesday.

“Human rights should not be considered exclusively in terms of political rights. We are not France and we do not enjoy its cultural development. We are a different part of the world,” Sisi said.

Sisi added, “I invite you all to visit Egypt and see that we do not have torture.” This came in response to a question by one of the journalists regarding the status of human rights in Egypt.

“Terror has shaken the region. Terror could have destroyed the region and even Europe. We are keen to establish a modern democratic state,” Sisi continued.

The president addressed journalists attending the press conference, saying, “You have to be extra careful with reports issued by NGOs, as we have an outlawed group keen to crack the country,” referring to the banned Muslim Brotherhood group.

Sisi further emphasized that there are tens of thousands of NGOs which are operating peacefully and providing noble services to the society in Egypt.

“We are suffering from deteriorating education, health care, unemployment and a housing crisis. You never ask about the human rights of the families of our martyrs and injured who fell victims to terrorism. You never ask about the three million who are working in the tourism industry and suffering due to terrorism,” President Sisi said.

The president added, “Human rights should not be considered exclusively in terms of political rights. We are not France and we do not enjoy its cultural development. We are a different part of the world.”

French figures hail Egyptian-French relations

French centrist politician Hervé de Charette described French-Egyptian relations as a focal point for France's policy in the Mediterranean region, stressing that Paris and Cairo should unite their efforts to face the challenges in the region and the threat of terrorism.

France always considered Egypt as its main partner in the south of the Mediterranean and praised the historical and close relations between the two countries.
 
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