Willkommen auf den Seiten des Auswärtigen Amts
Interview of German Ambassador Dr. Cyrill Nunn on the Occasion of Ending his Term in Cairo
Mr. Ambassador, we would like to know your assessment of the relations between Egypt and Germany? What are the developments in the relations on the political level?
After two years of living in Egypt and working closely with our Egyptian partners on a daily basis, I can underscore that the political relations between Egypt and Germany are traditionally strong and manifold. Egypt is not only the Arab country with the largest population, but also of great geo-political importance due to its strategic position between Europe, Africa and Asia. With its excellent regional connections, Egypt is therefore an essential political partner for Germany.
One of the fields in which this partnership has become most obvious during the past months is the Middle East Peace process, which is a priority topic for both countries. Egypt and Germany are both part of the „Munich group“ with France and Jordan, the only international format that brings together Arab and European countries to benefit from the synergy of their specific individual approaches. This year’s visit of the German Foreign Minister to Cairo that took place despite the challenges caused by the pandemic underlined the importance of our political partnership with Egypt.
And of course, we are in very close contact and constantly exchanging views on many other political topics and developments, too. I have no doubt that these close political ties will continue to play a significant role for our two countries in the future.
What is the volume of economic exchange and investment between Egypt and Germany? What are the most important areas of economic cooperation between Egypt and Germany?
With a volume of roughly 5 billion Euros in 2020, Germany is Egypt’s second biggest trade partner among the EU countries. Regarding German direct foreign investment in Egypt, we saw a flow of about 1,5 billion Euros last year. These numbers are all the more impressive, if we take into consideration the impact the pandemic had on the worldwide economy during the same period. They show that German-Egyptian economic relations are prospering and standing on grounds solid enough to overcome external shocks.
There are about 1180 companies with German capital shares in all economic sectors and we must not forget that behind this number stands a workforce of 25.000 Egyptian employees at those companies with a German majority share, and around 175.000 at companies with a general share of German capital.
Traditional fields for German investments and economic activity are the energy sector, especially electricity generation, as well mining, mobility, infrastructure and future technologies. There is a whole range of well-known German companies from Wintershall Dea, to Herrenknecht, Siemens or major automotive companies, who see great economic potential in Egypt and whose expertise is highly appreciated by the Egyptian side. As Egypt is a dynamic and rapidly growing country, German-Egyptian economic cooperation in the field of sustainable and innovative high-tech solutions will surely also play an even greater role in the future.
What are the latest developments in cultural relations and cooperation between Egypt and Germany?
Egypt is a country of very rich historic heritage and cultural diversity. It goes without saying that the German-Egyptian cultural relations are prosperous and dynamic. We are very proud of the century-old archeological cooperation through the German Archeological Institute DAI that focuses on working together with the Egyptian side on eye-level to learn from each other and jointly research the colorful history of this country and its people through the centuries. Right now, there are more than a dozen joint projects that are not restricted to classical archeological work such as excavations, but also explore new possibilities of archiving, digitization and international connections.
In addition to these activities in exploring the history and past of the country, we do of course also have a vast portfolio focusing on its future: Egypt has a huge young population eager to learn and interested in broadening their horizon. Our Goethe institutes, the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service), seven accredited German schools, 27 Egyptian public and private partner schools, as well as the German University Cairo and the German International University in the New Administrative Capital offer excellent educational possibilities and build cultural bridges between the two countries. All these institutions help talented young Egyptians to fully develop their potential and open up future perspectives. I am truly impressed by the high number of Egyptians having an excellent knowledge of the German language. Studying a foreign language is much more than just a hobby, it is also a competitive advantage on the local and the global labor market and a window to another culture. Therefore, I commend the Egyptian government for its decision to introduce various foreign languages in Egyptian schools and I am especially pleased with the growing number of German learners in Egypt -by now an incredible 400.000.
Concerning the field of tourism, has German tourism returned to Egypt, as it was in the past?
As vaccination campaigns are gathering pace in many countries, we are coming closer to a return to the life we knew before the pandemic. That includes, of course, greater possibilities in the field of travel and tourism, too. It is obvious that there are a lot more German visitors in Egypt now than at the same time last year, but it will still take some time until we can truly relax and say we have overcome this worldwide crisis. Vaccinations, preventive measures and caution remain keys if we want to make sure that our stage win in the fight against the pandemic becomes a long-term victory. But, as I can confirm after two years and countless trips to different corners of this country, Egypt is undoubtedly an absolutely unique and stunning travel destination, a multifaceted place that one can explore again and again while still discovering new sides. It has been and will surely remain a favorite for German tourists. They will be happy to return, once the pandemic is overcome on a global level.
Is there cooperation between Egypt and Germany in the field of Corona?
It became clear early on that this pandemic does not stop at borders and cannot be defeated with national measures. Germany has chosen a multilateral approach to quickly help advance research on vaccines and treatment possibilities and ensure that the results would benefit all countries and not just satisfy national interests. As an inclusive and fair answer to the pandemic, Germany has co-founded the international platform ACT-A, and is its second largest donor. Via ACT-A’s instrument COVAX and the international vaccine alliance GAVI, Egypt and many other countries have already received thousands of vaccine doses and there are more to come. I was very happy to personally witness how, with the delivery of the first batches, the fruits of this multilateral commitment eventually arrived where they were needed in Egypt.
Together with the Egyptian government, we also continued our intensive long-term development cooperation on strengthening resilience, supporting economic growth and creating employment - all areas that are of even greater importance in the light of the pandemic and its socio-economic impact. At the same time, we took a closer look at our projects and made adjustments wherever possible. Digital formats for conveying knowledge that were developed together with our Egyptian partners will certainly continue to play a greater role in the time to come. Thus, the crisis turned out to be a joint learning process from which we can benefit in our future cooperation, too.
Is it expected that there will be any official visits soon?
As mentioned before, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has been in Cairo in the beginning of this year, despite the difficulties caused by the worldwide pandemic. This clearly shows the importance Germany attributes to its partnership with Egypt. We will also have parliamentary elections in Germany next months and see the formation of a new government. I am sure that there will be more high-level visits in the future.
Is there energy cooperation between the two countries? What are the most important development programs in which Germany participates in Egypt?
On a general note, Egypt is an important development partner for Germany in the region. We have been working closely together in various sectors since the 1960s.The current bilateral portfolio of development cooperation with Egypt has a volume of around EUR 1.6 billion. Apart from the energy sector, the cooperation focuses on vocational training, water, waste disposal, urban development and the improvement of public services for citizens. In close and trustful contact with the Egyptian side, we are working together to sustainably improve the living conditions of the Egyptian population, in particular of the most vulnerable groups.
Vocational training is an important area of our cooperation, and I myself had the pleasure to witness the launch of two great projects in this field: The first was the opening of the Egyptian-German Center for Jobs, Migration and Reintegration in Maadi, which focuses on meeting the needs and of the Egyptian youth searching for working and training opportunities. The center offers services in three main areas: the integration of young Egyptians in the Egyptian labor market, the economic and social reintegration of Egyptian returnees from abroad and assistance for those interested in migrating for professional purposes. The second project is the German-Egyptian Technical Academy realized by Siemens and the GIZ in Ain Sokhna last year. This academy offers professional education and training courses in the fields of mechanic, electrical engineering, mechatronics and automation. Most recent simulation technology allows the trainees to learn under real life conditions.
The energy sector has also been a traditionally prominent field when it comes to German-Egyptian economic cooperation, as well as development cooperation. We are involved in future-proof projects such as the construction of the Gulf of Suez wind farm, the rehabilitation of the Aswan High Dam hydropower plant and the financing of the Zafarana photovoltaic solar park.
With all of us facing climate change as the biggest challenge of the 21st century, the energy question has gained an even more critical dimension during the past decades. The Egyptian government has recognized this and made the fight against climate change and its severe consequences a political and economic priority. Egypt’s readiness to host the next UN Climate Change Conference is an expression of the admirable determination with which the government wants to tackle this global question.
All the ambitious joint projects mentioned above illustrate the challenges, but also the great potential of German-Egyptian cooperation and it has been a great experience to be part of this process during my time as German Ambassador to Egypt.
Let me conclude by stressing how pleasant my and my wife’s stay in Egypt was on a personal level. Our many friends here will make sure that we stay in close contact and surely return for a visit.
(Published by Akhbar al-Youm Online on August 1st 2021)