Egypt to finalize EU partnership pact
After years of negotiations, the first stage of an association partnership agreement between Egypt and the European Union could be signed within days.
Speaking to the daily Al-Ahram, government sources said that the Egyptian embassy in Brussels has been instructed to arrange a meeting with EU officials to iron out the final issues still on the table.
The agreement, which has been negotiated since 1995, will upon signing provide a framework for Egyptian-EU economic cooperation and trade. It will take the place of a cooperation agreement that has been in force since 1977.
The EU-Egyptian agreement was developed within the framework of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, which was set up in Barcelona in 1995. Euromed’s goal is to create a Mediterranean Free Trade Zone (MFTZ) by the year 2010 by gradually concluding association agreements between the EU with the 12 non-EU states in the southern and eastern regions of the Mediterranean basin.
Agreements with Tunisia, Morocco and Israel have been signed and ratified, and a temporary agreement with the Palestinian Authority is in force. Negotiations on similar agreements are under way with Lebanon, Algeria and Syria. The agreement with Jordan has been signed and is in the process of ratification.
Reported in an article printed last year in the Cairo Times, EU sources said that the Egyptian government was holding off signing the partnership agreement because it was reluctant to commit itself to specific language on political rights.
A particularly controversial point concerned an Egyptian law passed in 1999 governing non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which critics said could be a tool used to shut down groups that the government doesn't like.
Both Egypt and its EU counterparts stand to gain considerably from the agreement. Egyptian farmers will gain access to the EU agricultural market, while companies in the EU will enjoy a cut in customs duties on imports. — (Albawaba-MEBG)
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)