The EU considers Egypt it’s most important trading partner in the Southern Mediterranean, head of the EU delegation to Egypt Ivan Surkos said at the commission’s annual iftar event on Wednesday, according to Daily News Egypt.
“The richness of cooperation is evident in the figure of the total EU aid commitments to Egypt, which amounts to over €300 million [$351 million] in grants. The total of combined ongoing aid commitments of EU member states, institutions, and the European financing institutions is €11 billion [$12.9 billion],” he added.
Surkos noted that Egypt and the EU were continuing to cooperate on numerous areas, including political affairs, security, human rights, migration and sustainable development, and had adopted partnership priorities last year set to last till 2020.
In terms of security, Surkos reiterated the EU’s support of Egypt’s measures against terrorism, and emphasised the importance of a comprehensive approach that addresses the root causes of extremism.
“The fight against terrorism shall happen within the rule of law, as we believe that the respect of individual freedoms as well as socioeconomic inclusion can bring long-lasting development and stability,” the ambassador said.
Egypt has been engaged in a large-scale security operation allegedly against Daesh militants in the Sinai region for several years, with a recent Human Rights Watch report expressing concern over the risk of a looming humanitarian crisis in the province as a result of the conflict. Nearly 420,000 residents in four north-eastern cities are in urgent need for humanitarian assistance due to the ongoing battle.
Since coming to power five years ago, having overthrown the country’s first democratically-elected government, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has ruled Egypt with an iron fist. State-sanctioned extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and closures of media agencies have also become rampant during his term in office
Hundreds of journalists and human rights activists have been arrested and held without trial, particularly those suspected of being linked to the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Thousands have endured torture during their detention and unfair trials, including 442 people who were sentenced in September for their participation in the Al-Fateh mosque protests in 2013.
Egypt has justified its crackdown on opponents as necessary to protect national security. In September Al-Sisi told US officials in New York that human rights should not be judged from a Western perspective, arguing that Egypt had taken numerous measures to ensure the economic and social wellbeing of its citizens.