EU and Egypt collaborate to strengthen partnership and address migration issues

The European Union revealed a $8.1 billion funding package and an expanded partnership with Egypt to address Africa’s migrant flows towards Europe. The agreement elevates Egypt-EU ties to a “strategic partnership,” focusing on energy, trade, and security cooperation over the next three years in exchange for Egypt enhancing its border security to prevent migration to Europe.

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Kelly Petillo, program manager of Middle East and North Africa at the European Council on Foreign Relations, highlighted Africa as a key priority for the EU, particularly concerning migration.

She mentioned that the strategy of providing economic aid to North African governments to reduce migration, initially tested in Turkey in 2016, has been extended to North Africa with agreements with Tunisia and now Egypt. However, this approach has not been successful.

A strategy that has not been successful 

Petillo noted that focusing on countering migration has overshadowed advancing a rights-based agenda, enabling authoritarian governments like al-Sisi and Saied to consolidate power. The support only sustains people in these countries without structural change.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi attends the Arab League Summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, May 19, 2023 (credit: BANDAR ALGALOUD/COURTESY OF SAUDI ROYAL COURT/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Jack Kennedy, associate director at S&P Global Market Intelligence, emphasized Egypt’s role as a transit country for migrants traveling to Europe, not the main departure point. The EU’s financial assistance acknowledges factors such as Egypt’s population and aims to prevent large-scale migration due to economic crises.

Kennedy explained Egypt’s economic challenges, including hosting Sudanese and Syrian refugees and potential Gazan refugees. Reduced dollar revenues from disruptions in the Red Sea and Suez Canal add to Egypt’s economic strain.

Noting Egypt’s refugee situation, Petillo warned of potential migratory pressures due to economic hardships. She highlighted a 50% increase in Mediterranean arrivals, a prominent issue ahead of the upcoming European elections.

Both Kennedy and Petillo agreed that the EU-Egypt deal could be influenced by the upcoming elections, aiming to curtail migrant flows and address wider economic reforms rather than solely migration control.

The strategic partnership includes soft loans for economic stability, with a focus on energy, water, and food security to support the EU’s interests. Security and counterterrorism cooperation are also part of the agreement, although its effectiveness in halting migration routes remains uncertain.

Despite economic support, Petillo stressed the importance of addressing governance and human rights to prevent further instability and migration. Until these issues are tackled, the region may continue to experience challenges leading to increased migration.