Brussels — Thank you. It is a pleasure for me to welcome Minister [for Foreign Affairs of Egypt,] Shoukry, my friend Sameh, to this 7th EU-Egypt Association Council.
First of all, I would take this opportunity to also publicly express our condolences for the terrorist attack that Egypt had to face again, once again, early this morning. That shows once again the need to strengthen our cooperation on counterterrorism, as well as on many other issues, which is something we discussed today during this Association Council.
There has been quite a long time since the last one: seven years. We discussed today a broad set of issues with the Egyptian delegation, from the political situation in the region - and I will come back to that in a moment, because we had the chance to cover different issues that are top priorities for both Egypt and the European Union in the region - but, first and foremost, we adopted today the new EU-Egypt Partnership Priorities. This is the basis for a reinforced partnership and enhanced cooperation in all fields of common interest and concern. This includes support to Egypt's sustainable economic and social development, good governance, rule of law, human rights, security, counterterrorism, migration and obviously foreign policy.
The stronger engagement is the demonstration of the fact that Egypt is a key partner for the EU. Its sustainable stability, its sustainable development are crucial not just for all Egyptians, but also for the entire region and for the European Union and its Member States.
I will mention a few issues on which we exchanged at length in this [Association] Council, leaving some other issues for Commissioner [Johannes] Hahn to comment on. I would like to stress the fact that on counterterrorism and security we, in the European Union, acknowledge the serious challenges posed by the terrorist threats to Egypt's stability and security, the impact of terrorism on the Egypt population. We strongly condemn acts of terrorism in Egypt and we reiterated our European Union's solidarity with Egypt in its fight against terrorism, but more than that we would like to translate this solidarity into concrete cooperation in this field and we decided to strengthen our cooperation on counterterrorism.
On regional issues, I would like to start with the situation in Libya that is a matter of national security for Egypt but also for the European Union. We share the same neighbourhood, a difficult one in this moment. We had a very good, positive and timely exchange and agreed that no effort should be spared to bridge political differences and help the parties in Libya to come together as they will do again today in Paris in the presence of the UN Secretary General Special Representative [Ghassan] Salamé.
I discussed this initiative myself with French Foreign Minister [Jean-Yves] Le Drian last week and with President [of France, Emmanuel] Macron when I was in Paris earlier during the month. We hope that this meeting today can be a further step to have the Libyan stakeholders take forward consultations in a constructive manner on limited amendments to the Libyan Political Agreement to ensure its inclusiveness and to fully implement it.
We also discussed, when it comes to regional issues, the situation in Jerusalem, the situation in Gaza, the common attachment we have to keeping the two-state solution perspective alive and to work in this direction with the parties. For what concerns the European Union, within the Quartet that as you might know had its Envoys meeting a couple of weeks ago and released a common statement on the situation in Jerusalem. Here we share the need for Israel and Jordan to work especially on the situation of Jerusalem in a coordinated manner.
We also discussed the situation in Syria and our common work to find a political solution to it and to help de-escalating the conflict. And we also touched upon the crisis between Qatar, on one side, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain, on the other. I was just coming back from Kuwait where I had talks with the Emir [Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah] and I had the chance to debrief Minister Shoukry on our discussions and we discussed perspective for strengthening the counterterrorism work in the region, regardless of its place of origin. For the Europeans it is extremely important that there is a coordinated regional effort. In this respect, the European Union is fully determined to increase the levels and the standards of our counterterrorism work. We are determined to do that in partnership with all in the region.
We also discussed migration. Here, on this level, the European Union expresses its appreciation of Egypt's work to manage migration challenges. We recognise that Egypt is hosting tens of thousands of refugees and a big number of migrants in the country, preventing irregular departures from its coasts, contributing to the implementation of the Valletta Action Plan and the Khartoum process. We also welcomed the adoption of a new anti-smuggling law in line with Egypt's international commitments.
This strong engagement, this framework of the Partnership Priorities we have adopted, is also a framework that should allow us to discuss issues on which we may differ but in a spirit of partnership and frankness. I reiterated the EU's position that sustainable security and stability can only be achieved when human rights are fully available, implemented and upheld as guaranteed by the 2014 Constitution and according to Egypt's international commitments.
We raised the European Union's concern about the consequences of the new NGO law on NGOs activities and the space for debate and discussion in the country. A meaningful dialogue with civil society is key to this effect. And as you may know, large part of the EU and Member States cooperation relies on NGOs as important implementing partners. We also discussed our common work in many other fields, in particular the social and economic projects of the country. And I am sure that on this Commissioner Hahn will provide more details to you, but let me close by thanking you Sameh for a very constructive, important meeting today. I am sure that this sets the basis for further deep engagement to try to address the many common challenges that we share in our region that is a shared region.
Q. You discussed the crisis in the Gulf but in the remarks here you did not mention that this means that there are differences between your approaches - the European one and the Egyptian one as Egypt is part of the conflict. Can you give us your assessment and are there few common points between both sides?
First of all, I think it is correct not to refer to these tensions as the Gulf crisis because the presence of Egypt among the 4 countries that are at the centre of it together with Qatar demonstrated that this is going far beyond the Gulf.
We have points in common, definitely so, and one of them is the clear commitment to fight terrorism in an effective manner.
The European Union is determined to do all it can to put in place more binding instruments including monitoring mechanisms on the control of the financial flows to avoid financing of terrorist organisations or activities and to have the most effective common work on other issues like the harbouring of terrorist organisations and individuals and other issues.
Actually I discussed this with the Emir in Kuwait; we were just about to start a counter-terrorism cooperation with the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] exactly because our common point - I would say - is the priority we attach to the prevention and the fight against terrorist activities. We, in Europe, see this as a need not just for one country but for all countries - not only all countries in the region but all countries in the world; this is a work we want to do also in Europe and we have increased our counter-terrorist activities inside the European Union Member States. So, we think that this has to be a joint effort.
We put at the disposal of not only these countries but also the international community at large, the expertise that the European Union has in some specific sectors when it comes to counterterrorism mechanisms and monitoring systems. And we hope that this can be of use to advance in some concrete pratical steps that we hope can be taken.
Having said that, there are also points of differences in the European Union as you know. I have reinterred loud and clear from day one of the crisis until the day before yesterday in Kuwait city: the European Union will continue to have good relations with all the countries involved. We believe that it is of paramount importance that a process of dialogue, of engagement, under the mediation efforts of His Highness the Emir of Kuwait, can and should start as a matter of urgency. We hope that this can be possible to agree on concrete steps that can be taken to have a more effective counter-terrorism approach and to avoid that these tensions escalate into something more serious or propagate to other areas of the world.
The European Union's position is clear, all Member States are united behind that and this is the message that all Member States have also delivered in their contacts with all the parties and that I have myself delivered to my friends in the region starting with Minister Shoukry; it is not the first time we discuss this - in a sense of friendship and understanding.
I have also to say that I have a profound understanding for the deepness of the feelings that run in the Egyptian population on this matter because as we have seen this morning, Egypt is facing victims of terrorism every single day or almost so. We deeply understand the reasons beyond the Egyptian position. Our position is that these preoccupations can and should be turned into a concrete operational dialogue on what kind of steps can be taken in the entire region and beyond to find more effective mechanism to prevent terrorist acts.
Q. We are in Egypt - I am talking about the people in the streets - we believe that the European Union is not serious enough when it comes to fighting terrorism, extremism, financing of terrorism. Radicals work freely in the European Union, they have bank accounts and they are dealing with it legally and nothing happens. Turkey faces higher waves of terrorist attacks than Egypt but when it comes to banning flights, you do not ban flights to Turkey but you do it to Egypt. I am taking about double measurements here. Third, the European intelligence - you know much more than we know about terrorism in Egypt so why don't you announce it, why don't you talk about supporters of terrorism and what would you do about it?
I normally have a rule that if you put more than one question, I chose which one I answer to; that will not apply because I see them as 3 different phases of the same question.
Let me be very clear. The European Union has faced itself the damage of terrorist activities on its own soil - here in Brussels, in Paris, elsewhere in the European Union. We know that this is a common fight. We have increased enormously our internal counter-terrorism measures, these are not my direct institutional responsibilities but we are working hand in hand with the Member States and the Commission's Services to increase the level of sharing of information, coordination internally in the EU, to face the threat of terrorism appropriately inside the EU and with our partners.
One of the things we have discussed today with the Minister [Shoukry] and his delegation is for example the possibility to strengthen our cooperation in counter-terrorism including with the possibility of having counter-terrorism experts in Cairo, in our Delegation. This is for us a serious work to be done, that is based on a daily work that - not only at our level, but at our Services' level - has to be intensified.
We are clearly together in that but for us one other thing is also very clear: the European way of fighting terrorism and preventing radicalisation is a way that is based on rational data. We have seen, as the Minister has pointed out correctly, some trends inside the European Union to confuse things. We want to be clear on the real roots of the terrorist threats inside and outside Europe. Unfortunately, we do not see one copyright; we see many copyrights in different places from which the threat comes and we are determined to address them all, in the most effective manner. Sometimes this requires tough measures; sometimes this requires work on prevention, education, job creation, inclusiveness of societies, respect of good governance and inclusiveness of old peoples' perspectives. This is the European approach and I am sure that we will strengthen cooperation in this field because it is priority for Egypt and it is priority for the European Union, there is no doubt about that.
Q. It has been 18 months since the disappearing of Giulio Regeni in Egypt, a case which is still unsolved. I would like to know if this subject has been taken into account in your talks. Also, are there any new elements on the renewal of the Operation Sophia?
On the second question, this is not the appropriate press conference but yes, you will be briefed separately about that. And for sure, yes, I raised the case of Giulio in my talks with the Minister [Shoukry] as we often do. We discuss this issue that is a matter of priority for the entire European Union, not just for one Member State, and the European Union stands at the side of the Italian government in doing all we can to help finding the truth.
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SOURCE European External Action