EGYPT/EU JOINT ACTION PLAN ON EUROPEAN NEIGHBOURHOOD POLICY AGREED IN BRUSSELS ON 6 MARCH

The Joint Action Plan between Egypt and the EU was formally adopted at the EU/Egypt Association Council in Brussels on 6 March 2007. The adoption ceremony was attended by Egyptian Foreign Minister H.E. Mr. Ahmed Aboul Gheit; Egyptian Trade and Industry Minister H.E. Eng. Rachid Mohamed Rachid; Egyptian Minister for International Co-operation H.E. Dr. Fayza Abu El Naga; European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Mrs. Benita Ferrero-Waldner; the EU's High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, Dr. Javier Solana; Germany's Foreign Minister H.E. Mr. Steinmeier for the EU Presidency; as well as other EU Foreign Ministers.

The Joint Action Plan brings Egypt into the series of partnerships set up under the European Neighbourhood Policy aimed at strengthening relations and bringing about greater stability and prosperity, based on mutual interest and nationally determined priorities. Relations between Egypt and the EU have been structured on the political and economic components of the EU/Egypt Association Agreement which entered into force in 2004.

Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner emphasised: “I am delighted that we have today adopted the EU-Egypt ENP Action Plan, which places Egypt among the closest partners of the European Union. The Action Plan opens a new chapter in our relationship, deepening our partnership in a number of key fields of interest to us both, such as the judicial and political areas, economic and social programmes, as well as cultural and people-to-people dialogue.” She added: “It is important now that the Action Plan achieves concrete, measurable results, and is seen as relevant to all elements of Egyptian society. Implementation is therefore a key priority on which we will be working together in the years ahead."

The Joint Action Plan opens the way for further liberalisation of trade in agriculture and services (the EU accounts for 40% of Egypt's trade volume), for which negotiations have already begun. It offers Egyptian exporters the prospect of a greater share in the EU's market of over 450 million consumers. The Action Plan calls for greater collaboration in common energy strategies, in linking transport systems, co-operation in environmental issues, such as a cleaner Mediterranean Sea, and on pollution control, in nuclear safety, EU scholarships for Egyptian students, broader links between EU and Egyptian scientific institutions, enhanced political dialogue and support for Egypt's political and judicial reforms, co-operation in security issues, and investment facilities for greater concessional lending from EU development banks. Egypt and the EU have undertaken in the Action Plan to incorporate the important role of civil society, improving contacts between youth, cultural and sports groups, academics, business and trade unions.

The European Commission has agreed a €558 million package of financial support for Egypt for 2007 to 2010, to support implementation of the Action Plan, Egypt's reforms in democracy, human rights and judiciary, improving economic competitiveness, education and health sector reforms, and interest subsidies for lending in energy and the environment. Egypt is eligible for a number of European Neighbourhood Policy instruments to encourage investment, support governance, cross-border co-operation, and sustainable development.

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