Italian PM praises country’s role in EU deal with Egypt

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Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni praised the role her country played in what she described as a “new model of cooperation between Europe and the southern shore of the Mediterranean.”

Meloni was speaking in Cairo upon the signing of an aid package deal between the European Union and Egypt, which she lauded it as “historic.”

“It is also the best way to face the problem of illegal migration to fight human traffickers. The best way is to reaffirm the right of the citizens of the African continent not to immigrate towards Europe, and that is something that we can do only with development,” Meloni told the Egyptian-EU summit.

Earlier Sunday, the EU announced a 7.4 billion-euro ($8 billion) aid package for cash-strapped Egypt as concerns mount that economic pressure and conflicts in neighbouring countries could drive more migrants to European shores.

The deal, which drew criticism from rights groups over Egypt’s human rights record, was signed in Cairo in a ceremony attended by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and leaders of Belgium, Italy, Austria, Cyprus and Greece.

The aid package includes both grants and loans over the next three years for the Arab world’s most populous country, according to the EU’s mission in Cairo.

Most of the funds 5 billion euros ($5.4 billion) are macro-financial assistance, according to a document from the EU mission in Egypt.

The EU said that the two sides have promoted their cooperation to the level of a “strategic and comprehensive partnership,” paving the way for expanding Egypt-EU cooperation in various economic and noneconomic areas.

El-Sissi’s office said in a statement that the deal aims to achieve “a significant leap in cooperation and coordination between the two sides and to achieve common interests.”

The deal, known as the Joint Declaration, aims among other things to promote “democracy, fundamental freedoms, human rights, and gender equality,” according to the European Commission.

Both sides will also deepen their cooperation to address challenges related to migration and terrorism.

The EU will provide assistance to Egypt’s government to fortify its borders, especially with Libya, a major transit point for migrants fleeing poverty and conflicts in Africa and the Middle East.

The 27-nation bloc will also support the government in hosting Sudanese who have fled nearly a year of fighting between rival generals in their country.

Egypt received more than 460,000 Sudanese since April last year.

The deal comes amid growing concerns that Israel’s looming ground offensive on Gaza’s southernmost town of Rafah could force hundreds of thousands of people to break into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

The Israel-Hamas war, now in its sixth month, have pushed more than 1 million people to Rafah.

Egypt says there are 9 million migrants, including about 480,000 who are registered refugees and asylum-seekers with the U.N. refugee agency.

Many of those migrants have established their own businesses, while others work in the huge informal economy as street vendors and house cleaners.

 

Africanews/Hauwa M.

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