Important changes in international relations that occurred during the last two decades of the 21st century, representing the reflection of the global confrontation for the new distribution of power, provoked once again great interest for the future of Arab Societies after the Arab spring. The new boundaries of geopolitical correlations in conjunction with some fundamentally new prerequisites that influenced the dynamics of interaction of the major powers, directly related to more and more alarming lack of a relatively sustainable system of regional and world security, to the fourth industrial revolution (with all the accompanying it social, economic, political and ethnocultural changes) and to the objectively intensifying processes of globalization as well1, turn our attention to the role of the states in the Arab world.
Taking into the consideration the variety of contemporary challenges the multilateralism is facing nowadays, as well as an increasing demand for equality, respect for mutual interest and concord among the greater number of countries in this new multipolar world, the continued regional and international role of Egypt, based on its cumulative identity could be of great importance2. In the current geopolitical conditions, in which we need a new paradigm, Egypt within its immediate foreign policy constituencies, employing the capabilities of multilateral organizations globally and regionally, because of its central position in the Arab world could act as a guide for the rest of the area. Additionally, the country is launching a transformative plan to advance its' potential and to construct a modern, responsive and equitable economy3.
Peace and security as necessary prerequisites for sustainable development
Egypt's contribution to the three leading multilateral institutions during the last four years started with its elected term in the Security Council. The facts that it was one of the three African members of the Council, the only Arab member and one of the members of the Non-Aligned Movement, as well as that Council itself, is mandated to have the primary task of maintaining international peace and security, were essential for Egypt's membership. While simultaneously presenting its national vision and playing a pivotal role in those geopolitical groups, Egypt was wholly conscious that the decisions of the Council should reflect the collective interest of the general membership of the United Nations as a whole. Additionally, being the only African country with concurrent membership in both the UN Security Council and the African Peace and Security Council, Egypt was keen to organize a thematic discussion on the structure of African peace and security, representing a pioneering step towards discussing cooperation between the two organizations at the holistic level and more comprehensive framework of conflict resolution. In regard to the fight against terrorism, the delegation of Egypt had the lead in introducing new topics that the Security Council has never dealt with, such as combating the intellectual foundations on which terrorist acts are based. The next major contribution was to push for the completion of all aspects of the counterterrorism triangle. (Resolution 2370 in August 2017) Priority was also given to the thematic issues of peacekeeping from a comprehensive perspective, such as linking all phases of conflict prevention. Furthermore, the linkage between peacekeeping operations and the concept of sustainability of peace and concept of inter-independence of the mechanisms of peace and security were addressed during its two years of membership in the Security Council. Moreover, Egypt's position among the troop-contributing and police-contributing countries during the aforementioned period reflected its commitment to translating its active role in the political arena in the Security Council into action on the ground.
After the completion of the elected term at the UNSC, Egypt assumed the Chairmanship of The Group of 77 at the beginning of 2018, (for the third time since its inception). Be aware of the fact that the pace of reform and the proposals submitted during the previous year were exceptional, it turned out to be a critical period for UN reform efforts in all fields. As regards the peace and security system, the Group supported the direction of adopting a comprehensive approach that would reinforce the Organization's ability to deal with challenges related to peace and security, especially through developing preventive diplomacy, addressing the roots of conflicts, and supporting cooperation with regional organizations.
As to the third in a row global leadership role that Egypt has undertaken, which is its current chairmanship to the African Union, three key priority areas were identified on the basis of their high importance on the African landscape and their relevance to Agenda 2063. In order to boost the regional economic integration portfolio, African Leaders signed the AFCFTA (The African Continental Free Trade Area agreement) (according to the estimates Africa with a population of nearly 1.3 billion individuals and a combined GDP that surpasses the 2 trillion dollars has an intra-trade share that doesn’t exceed 13%)). Finally, Egypt’s choice of the Post Conflict Reconstruction and Development as priority stemmed from its conviction that African Nations can’t achieve sustainable peace and realize development while their territories are affected by armed conflicts. Thus, Egypt has shown great commitment at the highest level and has contributed to peacekeeping and building process4.
Egypt's vision 2030
Two main sectors driving economic growth in Egypt in the first decade of the twenty-first century were tourism and energy/energy-intensive industries. The former’s contribution to GDP came to account for about 12 per cent, with a slightly higher contribution to the share of employment resulting from some 3 million jobs generated by the industry, which rendered Egypt’s labour market the world’s thirteenth most dependent upon tourism (WTTC, 2014). The second sector, in the form of gas, steel, cement, ceramics, fertilizer and petrochemicals, came to dominate Egypt’s exports of goods and, along with real estate and tourism, the country’s ability to attract FDI. However, the January 25st Revolution had been devastating for both sectors. All that remained of Egypt’s comparative advantage was location, especially sitting astride the Suez Canal, so that necessarily it became ever more vital to the country’s development strategy. The key question then was what would happen in the upcoming years? How is the government going to structure the economy to meet the pressing challenges? 5
Unprecedented science and technology progress brought about significant shifts that affect the economic sphere which is in a state of transition to the new technological set-up. As a consequence, the new social-economic models are arising, thus creating the changes in geopolitical correlations. They are especially sensitive and indicative for a reason that their long-term repercussions are not yet clear. In this situation, especially important is Egypt’s keenness to pursue balanced relations with all major countries and its approach to sustainable development diplomacy resting on the mega projects being developed at the national level.
After facing socio-political upheaval starting in 2011 Egypt launched an ambitious macro-economic reform program, which has helped the economic stabilization and improved the business environment in the country. In 2016, a new reform program was introduced to enhance investor confidence and improve governance. Egypt has started to reap the benefits of these reforms, with real GDP growing at 5.3% in 2018, compared to 4.2% in 2017, and with the IMF expecting GDP to further grow at a rate of 5.5% in 2019 and 5.9% in 2020. Egypt's vision for long term growth by 2030 suggests that the Egyptian economy will be a more active player in the world economy, capable of adjusting to international developments and well-positioned to join the ranks of the world’s medium-income countries.
The Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS) Egypt Vision 2030 has followed the sustainable development principle as a general framework for improving the quality of lives and welfare. Dealing with three main dimensions; economic, social, and environmental one, it is based upon the principles of “inclusive sustainable development” and “balanced regional development". Economic development as the first pillar of this strategy suggests that by 2030, the Egyptian economy is a balanced, knowledge-based, competitive, diversified, market economy, characterized by a stable macroeconomic environment, capable of achieving sustainable inclusive growth, while an energy sector as the second pillar refers to meeting national sustainable development requirements and maximizing the efficient use of various traditional and renewable resources contributing to economic growth, competitiveness, achieving social justice, and preserving the environment. The third pillar is represented by knowledge, innovation and scientific research6, while the transparency and efficient government institutions are the basis of the fourth pillar. Being the especially important dimension of the social development culture is here defined as the system of positive cultural values respecting diversity and differences, adding value to the national economy and representing Egypt’s soft power at regional and international levels. Except for the environment and urban development component of strategy's social dimension, education and training programs until 2030 underline activating the role of research centres in higher education institutions as well as adopting a set of programs to raise historic and cultural awareness of the society7.
The most important characteristic of mega national projects, being the part of Egypt's vision 2030 and characterized as "a locomotive of development", is their comprehensiveness and wideness, and their spread all over the country. These contribute to achieving the economic balance, establish bases of social justice and therefore reduce unemployment and poverty. Furthermore, these characteristics contribute to the short and long terms to the re-distribution of the population over a number of new cities in all regions of the Republic. The development of the Suez Canal Corridor, the establishment of a new generation of new cities, the development of the western north coast by establishing a set of horizontal and longitudinal corridors as well as industrial, tourist, urban, agricultural and power generation projects are just part of the new development strategy. In addition to it, the golden triangle in southern Egypt, which aims at establishing an economic, mining and tourist area on the coast of the Red Sea, was to be adopted. The establishment of major roads, 30 June corridor, as well as the new Galala City aim to develop the Suez Gulf, to attract more tourist investments and to create new job opportunities. Moreover, one of the cultural and educational development projects is Al- Arish University8.
Regional energy cooperation as part of the new geostrategic process?
Egypt struck fortune in 2015 with the discovery of an 850-bcm (30-tcf) super-giant gas field in the Eastern Mediterranean, Zohr, which alone could meet more than half the country’s demand. The discovery was made by Eni, whose total investment in the project will amount to USD 12 billion-16 billion. Zohr represents the largest gas discovery ever made in Egypt and the Mediterranean. In September 2018, Eni announced that the Zohr field was producing 56.6 mcm (2 bcf) per day, one year ahead of the Plan of Development’s schedule, and that it is aiming to increase this to 76.5 mcm (2.7 bcf) per day in 2019. In December 2018 Egypt’s Ministry of Petroleum announced the country had achieved a major milestone, gas self-sufficiency. The overall production of natural gas increased during 2018 to around 186.9 mcm (6.6 bcf) per day. In a call for a new tender for land exploration and development of hydrocarbon exploration, with the deadline August 1st 2019, the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources of Egypt was inviting international oil and gas industry players with the technical and financial conditions to take part. The competition concerns deposits in the Egyptian Red Sea. The lively interest that appears to emerge for Egyptian hydrocarbons, on the one hand, raises Egypt's importance in the energy chessboard and, on the other hand, if it continues and emerges, it is expected to have a significant impact on the developments in the wider region of the Eastern Mediterranean9.
In this context, Egypt’s constructive participation in talks for the development of the East Med natural gas pipeline, planned to carry Cypriot, Israeli and, possibly, Egyptian natural gas to the EU via Greece and Italy, has created favorable prospects for the realization of a project promising to play a pivotal role in the southeast Mediterranean energy map. Despite the fact that discoveries of major natural gas fields in the region and plans for EU-bound transportation routes have increased US interest, many obstacles still lie ahead for the East Med pipeline. Except for alternative East Med routes towards Europe, quantities and customers that should be assured, its commercial feasibility is another concern10.
Nevertheless, the meeting of Energy Ministers of Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority was held in Cairo in mid-January 2019 in order to discuss the establishment of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum. Although the subject of energy was the basis of EMGF, it should be noted, that there are also broader geostrategic processes that led to its establishment. While serving as the umbrella for cooperation regarding the development of gas resources in the region, it also reflected shared perceptions regarding the importance of the Eastern Mediterranean, of regional states to their national security11. This July the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum, claimed by some experts to be "the part of the deal of the century", has held a meeting in Cairo. However, in order to represent the solid basis for further, long-term regional strategic development, the EMGF, established by Egypt Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Italy, Greece and Cyprus should achieve some additional objectives, such as realizing the importance of cooperative relations in the Eastern Mediterranean in order not just to promote regional cooperation in the field of energy, but to increase the human and civic interaction in the region. Next ministerial meeting is to be held during the second half of January 2020 in Cairo12.
Indeed, in spite of the intensified changes and the competition at the energy- chessboard of the Eastern Mediterranean, Egypt's position remains very important. Egypt remains Africa’s largest non-OPEC oil producer and its third-largest natural gas producer, after Algeria and Nigeria. The estimations that Egypt aims to double the production of natural gas in 2020 witnessed that near-term growth outlook obviously looks favorable13.
Additionally, speaking in terms of regional cooperation, it should be noted that the historic agreement is to be launched in the electricity interconnection of Cyprus and Egypt, no later than July 2021. EuroAsia Interconnector is the interconnector between Greek, Cypriot, and Israeli power grids via the world's longest submarine power cable represent a leading Project of Common Interest of the European Union and also priority Electricity Highway Interconnector Project. Bridging Asia and Europe this Interconnector, as an energy highway, ends energy isolation and ensures the secure energy supply of Cyprus, Greece and Israel connecting them with European network. For new East Mediterranean gas finding it enables path towards new markets in the form of electricity. Also enables a path for electricity produced from renewable energy sources. In addition, it promotes the development of renewable energy sources and contributes to the reduction of CO2 offering significant economical and geopolitical benefit to these countries. Taking into the consideration the geo-economic point of view, this agreement, representing the new page on Cypriot and Egyptian cooperation, could be perceived not just as an important element in ensuring the energy security of the area, but also as the way of improving the international cooperation in the Mediterranean14.
The representative role of Egypt has become integral to its foreign policy orientation underlining the country's readiness for adoption of comprehensive approaches to the peaceful settlement of international disputes, ranging from peacekeeping to sustainable peace-building role in creating supranational identity. Egypt vision 2030 projects constitute a solid foundation for a comprehensive development take off in various aspects of economic, urban and social life and raise hope in a better future. Moreover, the Egypts willingness to ensure real participation in global decision making and solving global problems, as well as expressing the need for cooperation are just enhancing its' pivotal role in the region. Indisputably, the paradigm of Egypt shows that the countries of the region could offer more than pure economic issues and could actively promote the development and adoption of an alternative economic paradigm with "raisons d'être" found in broader values.
1 Zahari Zahariev, "The Balkans –the new/old European Apple Of discord", New Balkans and Europe-Peace Development Integration, Proceedings of the Tenth ECPD International Conference on Reconciliation, Tolerance and Human Security in the Balkans, Belgrade 2015.
3,6 Egypt Vision 2030; Government Strategy: Egypt Vision 2030; The Egyptian Vision for 2030.
2,4 The Multilateral Role of Egypt. Search for Equality and Justice in the International System, Lecture by H.E. Mr. Amr Aljowaily Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to Serbia before the, “Ambassadors Forum” of the Institute of International Politics and Economics, Belgrade, Serbia 18/04/2019.
5 Egypt’s Economic Transition: Challenges and Prospects.
7 Strategic Approach for Developing World-Class Universities in Egypt.
8 The Mega National Projects…A Locomotive of Development (by Dr: Ahmad Abu El Hassan Zarad 3/04/2016).
9 Σε νέο κύκλο παραχωρήσεων οικοπέδων προχωράει η Αίγυπτος στην Ερυθρά Θάλασσα - Εκ νέου τα βλέμματα στην Ανατολική Μεσόγειο.
10 Greek, Cypriot, Israeli officials seeking Italy’s East Med return.
11 Αίγυπτος: Διπλασιασμός της παραγωγής φυσικού αερίου το 2020.
12 Beyond Energy: The Significance of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum.
13 Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum to promote regional energy cooperation.
14 Κύπρος και Αίγυπτος υπέγραψαν συμφωνία για ηλεκτρική διασύνδεση.