The EU and Egypt undertook closer cooperation in many areas, notably on socio-economic development, scientific research, energy, migration, countering terrorism and regional issues.
The report on the partnership between the EU and Egypt for the period from June 2017 to May 2018 was issued today and highlights key developments in EU-Egypt cooperation with a particular focus on achieving the objectives set under the Partnership Priorities 2017-2020, adopted during the EU-Egypt Association Council in July 2017.
High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini said: “Egypt, its stability and development are key to the European Union, its Member States and the entire region. That is why we signed our partnership priorities last year and reinforced our already strong engagement with and for the Egyptian people. We are determined to continue our work, together, to address all the challenges we have to face, for the sake of our citizens.”
Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn added: “In the last year we stepped up our action to support Egypt reforming its economy, working for a sustainable and inclusive growth. For the EU it is imperative that the young generation, women and the most vulnerable members of the society are included in this process. The EU will continue to support Egypt tackling socio-economic challenges and will keep working together for the stability and prosperity of the region.”
During the reporting period, the EU’s commitment vis-à-vis Egypt was reaffirmed through regular political dialogues, bilateral visits by the EU and Egyptian sides and continued implementation of the EU’s financial assistance.
Egypt also continued to engage as regional player on key regional and international issues, notably in the perspective of its African Union presidency next year, such as the Middle East Peace Process, Syria, Libya, Africa, the situation in Gulf and the Euro-Mediterranean cooperation.
Overall, the conclusions of the report show that the implementation of priority areas is well on track, with notable challenges remaining in particular in the field of the rule of law, human rights, fundamental freedoms and space for civil society. The next EU-Egypt Association Council that will be held in Brussels on 20 December will be the occasion to further discuss the EU-Egypt partnership for the months ahead.
The overall EU financial assistance commitments to Egypt amount to over €1,3 billion in grants. This amount mainly targets social development and jobs creation, infrastructure, renewable energy, water and sanitation/waste management, environment, but it also supports the improvement of governance, human rights, justice and public administration reform in Egypt.
Through the multiannual programme Facility for Inclusive Growth and Job Creation the EU supports the business enabling environment and promote economic reforms in favour of enterprises, including easier access to finance for small and medium-sized enterprises. The EU is also promoting labour- intensive community services and public works as an effective and well-targeted social safety net. Via the EU programme Emergency Employment Investment Project (EEIP) completed in January 2018, more than 50,000 young people, many of them women, have acquired new skills and been given access to jobs. Nearly 10,000 of them have received specific support to get permanent jobs or start their own business.
A number of high-level visits and meetings contributed to enhance the partnership between the EU and Egypt in 2017-2018 and to discuss regional and international issues of concern. Those include meetings between Egyptian President Abdelfattah Al-Sisi and the President of the European Council Donald Tusk in September 2017; High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini’s meetings with the Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry in the margins of various international forums; the visit of Commissioner for the European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, in October 2017, to reaffirm EU’s support to Egypt’s migration management inside and outside its borders with the signature of a €60 million programme under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa; the visit of Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete, in April 2018 during which he signed a new Memorandum of Understanding on energy cooperation; and the launch by Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, in December 2017 of the EU-Egypt Migration Dialogue, aimed at improving bilateral cooperation and discussions on the overall topic of migration.
A further step in EU-Egypt cooperation includes the signing of an agreement on scientific and technological cooperation for Egypt’s participation in the Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area (PRIMA) in October 2017.
Ursula von der Leyen presents her vision to MEPs
In a debate with MEPs, Ursula von der Leyen outlined her vision as Commission President. MEPs will vote on her nomination, held by secret paper ballot, at 18.00.
Ursula von der Leyen outlined her political priorities, if elected as Commission President, to MEPs in Strasbourg this morning.
Here is a selection of the topics she mentioned during her speech.
Having identified the collective need for “a healthy planet as our greatest challenge and responsibility”, Ms von der Leyen proposed bolder emissions targets, with a reduction of 50% to 55% by 2030 and committed to submit a plan for a “Green Deal for Europe” and a European Climate Law within her first 100 days in office. She also announced plans for sustainable European investment (also through the partial conversion of EIB funds into a “climate bank”) to provide €1 trillion in investments within a decade.
Ms von der Leyen also stressed that the EU must establish an economy that serves the people. In order for this to happen however, “everyone needs to share the burden” – including those tech giants that conduct their business (and should continue to do so) in Europe, yet do not repay the people of Europe for their access to EU human and social capital.
Reiterating her commitment for a gender-balanced College of Commissioners during her term, she also highlighted that violence against women has to be tackled decisively; she would therefore seek to define violence against women as a crime in the European treaties, in parallel to completing the EU’s accession to the Istanbul Convention.
Ms von der Leyen declared her commitment to rule of law as a European value, announcing that she intends to establish an EU-wide monitoring mechanism in parallel to existing measures. She emphasised that these European values also include a duty to save lives at sea and should translate into a humane border policy. She stated her support for a “new pact on migration & asylum” and Dublin Regulation reform, adding that she intends to ensure that Frontex border guards number 10,000 not by 2027, but by 2024, and that all countries should shoulder their fair share of the burden based on the principle of European solidarity.
On the matter of European democracy, Ms von der Leyen announced a two-year Conference for Europe as of 2020, in which citizens will take a leading and active role. She also emphasised the need for the Spitzenkandidaten system to be strengthened and that transnational lists should be reconsidered in future European elections. She also declared her full support for a right of initiative for the European Parliament, committing to put forward a legislative proposal in response to every resolution that is passed with a majority of Parliament’s constituent members.
Reactions from political groups
Manfred Weber (EPP, DE) confirmed his group’s support for Ms von der Leyen. “We stand for a Europe that is fair, modern and innovative, secure, open-minded and ecological. We will implement these pledges together with her.” He welcomed her proposals for a right of initiative for the EP and to improve the lead candidate process, saying, “Backroom deals must be a thing of the past.”
Iratxe García Pérez (S&D, ES) complained that “European democracy is progressing way too slowly” and underlined that Ms von der Leyen must give further details on how she plans to respond to citizens’ demands, and particularly youth, before the S&D decides whether or not to back her. Support for sustainable growth, stronger action to fight poverty, and a binding strategy for gender equality are essential, García added.
Dacian Cioloș (Renew, RO) said, “We can no longer disappoint the millions of Europeans who said YES to Europe. They expect the EU to defend the rule of law without hesitation”. His group is ready to support her, with one goal: the renewal of Europe. “But, above all, we expect from you real pro-European leadership. Europe is not an administration, but a political ambition”, he said.
Philippe Lamberts (Greens/EFA, BE) said that his group was not ready to hand over the helm of the European Union to Ursula von der Leyen at a time when ‘‘our common house is burning, the climate is deteriorating, there are ever deeper inequalities and a backlash in fundamental freedoms and the rule of law”. However, if elected, his group was ready to provide its support “whenever the proposals would be up to the existential challenges we face”.
Jörg Meuthen (ID, DE) announced that his group will vote against her, stating that she is unfit for the job and that she had no convincing vision for Europe. He criticised her for promising too many different, contradictory things to groups in order to secure support, e.g. regarding the rule of law or migration.
Raffaele Fitto (ECR, IT) asked Ursula von der Leyen to clarify her position on “the mechanism on the rule of law, on which we are at odds” with the policy pursued so far by the Commission. Regarding the fight against climate change, he said he was “happy for proposals such as the transition fund and the bank for sustainable investments, but we discuss increasingly ambitious targets, without saying how to achieve them”.
Martin Schirdewan (GUE/NGL, DE) said that his group will not vote for Ms von der Leyen. Voters expected a lead candidate as Commission President, he claimed, not a Minister of Defence, which is a signal “for the continued militarisation and isolation of the EU.” He called for austerity policies to end and for investment in social security, education, healthcare and fighting climate change.
PES: Progressive commitments needed from the next Commission
The next European Commission must commit to progressive priorities, PES President Sergei Stanishev said today.
At a hearing this morning with S&D MEPs, Sergei Stanishev asked the nominee for Commission President – Ursula von der Leyen – to commit to stronger social rights, more opportunities for young Europeans, and a firm approach to the Rule of Law.
PES President Sergei Stanishev said:“The next European Commission programme must not ignore the millions of Europeans who voted for progressive change. The public did not have an opportunity to scrutinise the current nominee’s ideas, so today we are seeking commitments on our priorities. This means binding rules for the Social Pillar, substantial budget increases for youth, and no watering down of the Rule of Law.”
The PES has been the driving force behind the European Pillar of Social Rights, working to convene the EU Social Summit, also known as the Gothenburg Summit, in 2017. The Pillar was created to strengthen rights and social protections for workers, but during the last mandate major elements of the Pillar were not implemented by member states and binding rules should now be introduced.
Opportunities for young people must also be a priority for the next Commission. The Youth Guarantee was a PES initiative to secure a job, traineeship or education place for all young people after they leave education or become unemployed. More investment is now needed to support the next generation to reach their full potential and enjoy a comfortable life. This means introducing a European Youth Plan, extending the Youth Guarantee so it can benefit more people, and implementing a European Child Guarantee. Erasmus+ must also be strengthened to ensure people from all backgrounds can benefit, and European Culture Cheques should be introduced to support access to culture for young people.
Led by the First Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans, the PES has a resolute commitment to upholding and strengthening the Rule of Law. Our political family has led the defence of this fundamental value of the EU, a collective duty for all European parties. It is important that a future Commission does not shy away from its obligations in this area. The next Commission President must build on the comprehensive work undertaken in this mandate by the First Vice-President to ensure democracy and the independence of the media and judiciary can flourish in Europe.
Parliament decides on new Commission President
MEPs vote on the candidate for the president of the European Commission on Tuesday 16 July.
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who was nominated for the post by the European Council, will outline her programme and discuss it with MEPs from 9.00 CET. MEPs will vote on her candidacy at 18.00 CET.
In order to become Commission President, von der Leyen must secure the support of an absolute majority of MEPs (as of today she must get at least 374 votes). The vote will be a secret paper ballot.
Although she has the backing of EU leaders and is a member of the political party that won most seats in the European elections, von der Leyen was not a lead candidate, a fact criticised by many MEPs.
Political groups have already subjected von der Leyen to tough questioning about her plans for the Commission.
If she fails to win a majority, the European Council would have to put forward another candidate.
Following May’s elections, one of the first tasks of the new, directly-elected European Parliament is the election of the next European Commission President.
Once this new president has been approved, work starts on setting up the new Commission. Parliament’s committees will hold hearings with each of the commissioners-designate to assess their suitability for the portfolio to which they are assigned, before MEPs vote on the Commission as a whole.
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