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18 Mar, 2024 13:46

EU announces $8 billion aid package for Egypt

Human rights organizations have criticized the agreement in six areas, including migration
EU announces $8 billion aid package for Egypt

The European Union (EU) has announced an aid package worth €7.4 billion ($8 billion) for Egypt, aimed at stabilizing the North African nation’s economy and reducing migrant flows to Europe.

The deal was signed on Sunday in Cairo at a ceremony attended by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and the leaders of Belgium, Italy, Austria, Cyprus, and Greece.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described the scheme as a “strategic and comprehensive partnership” that will allow the bloc to work with Egypt in six areas, including politics, security, energy and trade.

The EU-Egypt Joint Declaration involves grants and loans over the next three years for the Arab League’s most populous country, which is grappling with near-record inflation and other economic pressures.

According to an EU document, €5 billion has been set aside for concessional loans and €1.8 billion for investments, with an additional €600 million to be provided as grants, including €200 million for migration management.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said the agreement marks “significant steps towards an integrated partnership” to address regional challenges and combat illegal migration flows.

The deal comes amid widespread concerns that Israel’s expected ground offensive on Gaza’s southernmost town of Rafah will force thousands of people to cross into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

While the Egyptian coast has not been a major transit point for migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean into the EU, where governments have struggled to stem inflows, it is under migratory pressure from the region. According to the Egyptian authorities, the country is hosting 9 million migrants, with 480,000 registered from 62 countries, most of whom are civilians fleeing armed conflict in Sudan, according to a recent UN report.

The Greek islands of Crete and Gavdos have seen a significant increase in migrant arrivals, largely from Egypt, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, in recent months.

“We must prevent the opening of new migration routes, and we will work very closely with Egypt to ensure that this will be achieved,” Reuters cited Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis as saying.

However, international organizations have criticized the pact, with Human Rights Watch describing it as a “flawed” deal and claiming that the “EU’s cash-for-migration-control approach” exposes it to complicity in abuse.

Meanwhile, el-Sisi, who won a third term as president last December, called it a “paradigm shift” in the Egypt-EU partnership. The Egyptian leader has been pursuing increased investment, including from Russia, in a bid to address economic challenges. In January, Cairo joined the BRICS group, along with UAE, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Iran.