Viktor Orbán – Photo: PMO

El-Sisi: Egypt needs support from EU countries

Orbán on V4-Egypt summit: Strengthening Egypt crucial

Strengthening Egypt is in the European Union's "vital interest", Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said after a meeting of representatives of the Visegrad Group and Egypt in Budapest on Tuesday.

Orbán told a press conference held jointly with Slovak counterpart Eduard Heger, Poland’s Mateusz Morawiecki, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi that migration was much worse now than in 2015, and the EU could not cope without external allies such as Egypt, “one of the most obvious allies”.

At the meeting, Morawiecki reported on the migration pressure at Poland’s eastern border, Orbán said, adding that the pressure on Hungary’s southern border was also increasing.

“We are beseiged,” the prime minister said, adding that if Egypt cannot pursue its current policies to rein in migration towards Europe, “we will all be in great trouble”. Egypt not only needs its border controls reinforced, the country’s economy should also be stabilised so that “local youth are offered opportunities of a good life,” Orbán said, adding that it was also in Europe’s interest.

Orbán called on the EU to convene the EU/Egypt Association Council as soon as possible, accept Egypt as a strategic partner and approve its proposals against terrorism.

He proposed that the EU adopt Egypt’s list of terrorists and terrorist organisations, and suggested that European restrictions preventing Egypt from purchasing equipment for border protection should be lifted.

Orbán said that no ship carrying illegal migrants had left the coasts of Egypt since 2016. “If there is a will and good leadership, migration at sea can be restricted or even prevented.”

Talks will continue in the afternoon, focusing on economic cooperation, Orbán said, adding that such cooperation was a Hungarian priority.

Hungary’s Eximbank has opened a separate chapter to ensure that “Hungary not only exports goods but sets up factories in Egypt”. Such businesses could offer jobs to local youth, while Hungary could also contribute to European efforts aimed at stabilising the Egyptian economy in the long run, he added.

Orbán also said that the Egyptian president’s visit was an honour, adding that “ties are friendly and brotherly”.

El-Sisi: Egypt needs support from EU countries

Egypt is in need of support from European Union countries, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt told a press conference after meeting Visegrad Group leaders in Budapest. El-Sisi thanked Visegrad Group leaders for their support. While their backing is important, the leaders of western European countries should also understand that “Egypt’s leadership respects its people and strives for development”, he said.

Egypt needs support to improve its political, economic and cultural situation rather than “being called out on human rights”, he said.

The question is whether “Europe is ready to offer brotherhood to Egypt,” by offering cooperation with its universities, and by “taking its industry there to provide jobs for Egyptians.” Unless those needs are answered, “we cannot talk about legal standards,” he said.

The Egyptian government has “spent trillions of Egyptian pounds” in the past years on improving infrastructure and water management in rural Egypt, home to some 60 million people, he said.

On the issue of migration, el-Sisi noted that Egypt has not allowed “a single ship transporting migrants to leave Egyptian ports” since 2016. At the same time, the country has received some 6 million migrants from African countries and treated them as “guests … they are taught at our schools and treated in our hospitals,” he said.

Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger said the meeting was “further proof that Egypt was one of the most important parrtners in the Middle East”, with great impact on the region’s political and security challenges, such as the fight against terrorism and curbing migration.

Egypt’s “exemplary” way of handling migration should remain sustainable, Heger said. Egypt’s security and stability has direct consequences for the stability of central and eastern Europe, he said.

Slovakia “welcomes and supports full political dialogue and cooperation between the European Union and Egypt, he said.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the meeting was “an important step towards the stabilisation of the European Union”. “Calm” in the Middle East, and opportunities for social and economic development, are key to preventing terrorism and migration, he said.

The Visegrad Group will “try to convince the EU’s western states” of the importance of economic cooperation with Egypt, Morawiecki said. He praised Egypt for “stopping migration towards Europe” five years ago. The Visegrad Group would like to help in that task, he said.

Migration should be “solved where the problem is” by fostering economic development there, he said.

Poland has already sent coronavirus vaccines to Egypt and is slated to send a “few hundred thousand doses” more, he said.

Morawiecki also praised Orbán as a “consummate chess player” able to “think a few steps ahead and foresee danger”. Brussels should follow the Visegrad Group’s lead, which puts weight on security, on preventing terrorism, and on economic cooperation with other countries “under the leadership of Hungary and Viktor Orbán.”

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