Interview with H.E. Mr. Fathallah Mohamed EL DALIE
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Romania
R: Romania and Egypt established diplomatic relations at the level of diplomatic agency and consulate general in April 1906. Your Excellency, how would you cha-racterize the historical evolution of bilateral relations between Egypt and Romania?
H.E. Fathallah Mohamed EL DALIE: The historical relation-ship between Egypt and Romania dates back several cen-turies. Their interactions throughout history have played a significant role in shaping their diplomatic and cultural relations today.
One of the earliest recorded interactions between Egypt and Romania can be traced back to the ancient Roman Empire and during the Middle Ages.
Moreover, in the 16th and 17th centuries Egypt became a part of the Ottoman Empire, while Romania was also under Ottoman rule for a considerable period which has brought significant changes to both Egypt and Romania.
In the 19th century, as both Egypt and Romania sought independence from Ottoman domination, Romania successfully gained its independence in 1877, followed by Egypt in 1922. This shared experience of fighting for independence laid the ground-work for future cooperation and collaboration between the two countries.
Formal diplomatic relations between Egypt and Romania were established in 1906, and since then, the two countries have maintained a friendly relationship. The relations between the two countries have largely focused on economic cooperation, cultural exchanges, and political dialogues.
Overall, the historical relationship between Egypt and Romania has been charac-terized by limited direct interactions in the past, but stronger ties have evolved in more recent times. Their shared experience of fighting for independence, as well as growing economic and cultural exchanges, have contributed to the development of a cooperative and friendly relationship.
The relationship between Egypt and Romania has been influenced by several key historical events and periods. Some of the notable ones include:
– Egypt and Romania were part of the non-aligned movement, during the Cold War era which aimed to maintain independence from the influence of both the United States and the Soviet Union.
– The policy of the Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser aimed to have economic cooperation with countries across the world which was compatible with Roma-nian socialist policy under the leadership of Nicolae Ceauşescu, and this led to increased political and economic cooperation between the two countries.
– Romania was one of the very few countries in the Eastern bloc that maintained diplomatic relations with Egypt after the peace treaty with Israel, which played a role in strengthening their relationship.
All these historical interactions led to a very good bilateral relation between Egypt and Romania in different fields such as: political and diplomatic relations, which are characterized by stability, consistency, coordination, and convergence of visions on the various regional and international issues, and in the cultural and educational ex-change programs over the years, which have contributed to fostering mutual under-standing and strengthening relations.
Overall, Egypt and Romania are linked by close historical relations, as in 2024 they will celebrate the 118 anniversaries of the establishment of diplomatic relations between them.
R.: What are the main economic sectors underpinning the bilateral relationship between our countries?
Could you provide some concise conclusions regarding the trend of this collaboration from your country’s perspective?
H.E. Fathallah Mohamed EL DALIE: Increasing economic cooperation, commercial exchanges and investments are goals that Egypt and Romania share, and it is our strong belief that the growth recorded during the last years in the bilateral trade relations made Egypt one of Romania’s most significant commercial partner in the Middle East and Africa. Egypt could play an important role in Romania’s strategy of developing relations with Africa and Middle Eastern countries, and Romania, as an important EU and NATO member, could provide a significant support for Egypt in Europe.
The bilateral relationship between Egypt and Romania is supported by various economic sectors. Trade and investment opportunities exist in areas such as agri-culture, manufacturing, energy, tourism, IT, food industries and construction. These sectors provide a foundation for collaboration and economic growth between the two countries.
Egypt has actively aimed to enhance economic ties with Romania, particularly through trade and investment promotion initiatives. The exchange of official visits and the signing of agreements in different fields illustrate the commitment to strengthening the bilateral relationship.
The trade volume between Egypt and Romania amounted to about 1,107 million US in the first 9 months in 2022, USA 334 million of which are Egyptian exports, whereas USD 773 million are imports to Egypt.
Among Romanian exports to Egypt there are: grains (mostly wheat), oil deriva-tives, wood, chemicals, metal products, industrial and electrical equipment, cars and spare parts, tires, furniture etc. There are also Egyptian exports to Romania, quite well diversified: vegetable and fruits, food products, medicine, chemicals, plastic materials, ceramic and glassware, textile, some industrial and electrical equipment etc.
R: The tourism sector in your country is undoubtedly an international benchmark in the field. What principles underlie the development of this strategic sector for Egypt?
H.E. Fathallah Mohamed EL DALIE: Tourism is one of the main pillars of the Egyptian economy. Beside being a main tributary of the hard currency in Egypt (expected to hit 15 billion $ in the year 2023), it provides a lot of job opportunities in different domains that are linked to tourism. Egypt has received more than 7 million tourists in the first half of 2023. Yet, Egypt didn’t reach the peak of its potential in the tourism sector, being a country of such rich, diverse and well-known history, being a country of about 2,000 km of coasts that are ready to receive visitors all over the year. That is why the Egyptian government had implemented various measures to promote its tourism sector. Some of these measures include:
a. Infrastructure Development: Egypt invested in infrastructure development, in-cluding airports, roads, and resorts, to improve accessibility and the overall tourist experience.
b. Marketing Campaigns: Egypt launched marketing campaigns to promote its tourism destinations globally, highlighting its rich history, cultural heritage, and natural beauty.
c. Enhanced Security Measures: The government took steps to enhance security at popular tourist destinations to reassure travelers and ensure their safety.
d. Diversification of Offerings: Egypt worked on diversifying its tourism offerings, introducing new attractions and activities to appeal to a broader range of tourists, such as adventure tourism, cultural experiences, and eco-tourism.
e. Visa Simplification: Efforts were made to streamline the visa process and make it easier for tourists to obtain the necessary permits to visit Egypt.
f. Collaboration with Tourism Industry: The Egyptian government collaborated with the private sector, including hotels, tour operators, and airlines, to create attractive travel packages and promotions.
R: The Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Romania is also accredited for the Republic of Moldova. How do you evaluate the current level of trade, political, and technical relations between the Republic of Moldova and the Arab Republic of Egypt, and what are the priority directions for consolidating this bilateral cooperation?
H.E. Fathallah Mohamed EL DALIE: Egypt was one of the very first countries to recognize the Republic of Moldova since the dissolution of the former USSR! Over the last three decades, the bilateral relations between the two countries have witnessed gradual increases, especially in the trade sector. Over the last couple of years, the two countries have shown openness to expand their relations in many fields, Egypt became one of the most attractive destinations for the Moldovan families since the start of the pandemic in 2020. The Egyptian authorities have taken many measures to ease the process of visa issuing for Moldovan citizens, including gran-ting upon arrival visas at the points of entry and adding Moldova to the list of countries that can apply from the electronic visas. The bilateral trade also has witnessed big leaps forward, now there are a lot of Egyptian products in the Moldovan market, both countries are working on expanding the size of trade between them, Egypt is one of the biggest markets for wheat and apples. At the political level, we have witnessed extensive movements between Cairo and Chisinau, H.E. Nicu Popescu, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova paid a visit to Cairo in October 2022, a visit which was the first of its kind since the formation of the Republic of Moldova, where he had very extensive meetings with high level officials in the Egyptian state, including the Speaker of the Parliament, the Prime Minister, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The two countries managed to sign three MOUs about mutual exemption of visa requirements for holders of diplomatic, service, and special passports, political consultations and cooperation between the diplomatic institutions in both countries.
Egypt is committing itself to help the Moldovan government in its ongoing efforts exerted to build and advance the capacity of its staff, and in this context, Egypt has received 14 Moldovan candidates who participated in various training courses in many fields from “Developing the diplomatic skills”, “Qualification to join Peacekeeping Operations for Observers”, “The role of Women as Police/Civilian component in peace operations and conflict zones”, “Protection of Civilians in Conflict Areas” to “VIP and Vital Installation Protection”.
R: How does the Government you represent assess the impact of the Ukraine conflict on the relationship with the European Union?
H.E. Fathallah Mohamed EL DALIE: Our relations with the EU are multidimensional and strategic ones. And speaking about the situation in Ukraine, I think that the whole world has been hit with what is going on there, and the necessity of restoring peace is unprecedented!
V.S.: What are the main economic sectors in Romania where the Arab Republic of Egypt sees significant investment opportunities and in the Republic of Moldova?
H.E. Fathallah Mohamed EL DALIE: The potentials for cooperation between Egypt and Moldova are diverse! Moldova is going through many changes right now, and they need the help of the international community to succeed! We respect the choice of the people of Moldova, and we are ready to walk the road with them towards better opportunities and a prosperous future! I would name two fields that could create a win-win situation for the people of both countries, the first is infrastructure, where there are a lot of Egyptian companies that can provide and need assistance or help, and the bilateral trade, especially wheat, apple, and medicine.
R: How do you assess the current investment climate in your country, and which are the main areas or sectors attracting the interest of companies from Romania?
What are the main economic sectors underpinning the bilateral relationship between Egypt and Romania?
Could you provide some concise conclusions regarding the trend of this collaboration from Egypt perspective?
The investment climate has witnessed many legislative and institutional reforms aimed at facilitating and streamlining procedures for investors.
This has contributed to achieving positive outcomes related to the required time, cost, and number of procedures to incorporate a company and start a business.
It is worth mentioning the auspicious investment climate of Egypt in the light of the recent investment law, the structural reforms launched by the authorities, and the important changes in the economic legal framework, all of which are creating good opportunities for various sectors such as energy and mineral resources, infrastructure, industry, agriculture, trade, renewable energy, and tourism etc.
In addition, Egypt has many advantages and factors in the field of infrastructure, and Egypt has made historic and unprecedented achievements in the field of infra-structure projects, as these will contribute to making Egypt one of the most important countries in the Middle East and Africa region.
Sustainable development plan in Egypt gives priority to the leading, high-pro-ductivity and fast-growing sectors where the manufacturing industries sector comes at the forefront, in addition to giving importance to the sectors most closely related to enhancing transactions in the internal markets, especially the construction and building, transportation, communications and information technology sectors.
In this context, the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones (GAFI) seeks to promote national investments and attract more foreign investments through several pillars, first of which is, pursuing a promotional strategy to attract invest-ments to the projects implemented by the State and attract the leading companies to work in priority sectors, namely sectors with high added value and labor-intensive ones. The second pillar is to remove the challenges facing investors along with enhancing the coordination with all relevant ministries and agencies in this regard.
GAFI is working diligently to implement integrated measures that enhance the application of the investment law that encompasses general and special guarantees and incentives, notably the establishment of a unit to grant a golden license to cor-porations that set up strategic or national projects contributing to the State’s deve-lopment. In addition, GAFI developed the services provided through the Investor Service Centers (ISC), resumed the implementation process of digital transformation and automation of services in these ISCs, and prepared for the establishment of the first electronic service center. Moreover, GAFI developed a work plan to unify pro-cedures related to services after companies’ establishment.
The government continues to seek investment–to finance several mega projects, including the construction of a new administrative capital and smart cities; and to promote mineral extraction opportunities. Egypt intends to capitalize on its location bridging the Middle East, Africa, and Europe to become a regional trade and invest-ment gateway and energy hub. It also hopes to attract information and communications technology (ICT) sector investments for its digital transformation program.
Egypt is a party to more than 100 bilateral investment treaties, including with the United States. It is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA), and the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA). In many sectors, there is no legal difference between foreign and domestic investors. Special requirements exist for foreign investment in certain sectors, such as upstream oil and gas and real estate, where joint ventures are required.
The government has established a number of specialized councils, on top of which is the Supreme Council for Investment, which the President of the Republic decreed to be restructured and chaired by His Excellency.
Romania has been a significant trading partner for Egypt, particularly in the fields of agriculture, chemicals, and machinery.
The total value of Egyptian investments in Romania on October 31, 2022, reached USD 43.95 million. It is noteworthy that the companies with Egyptian participation in the share capital that were registered in Romania are 2,039.
The value of Romanian Investments in Egypt during the same period was about 88 million USD.
R.: In the spring of 2024, the Center for Analysis and Regional Development Planning, together with the Suceava County Council and the North East Regional Development Agency, will organize the second edition of the Regional Economic Forum Moldova – 2024. The meetings format will focus on the regions of Southeast Europe. Ambassadors of partner states with which Romania has consolidated non-EU economic relations will also be invited. To what extent is your country interested in developing specific relations with the regions of Southeast European countries and, consequently, participating in REFM 2024?
H.E. Fathallah Mohamed EL DALIE: Of course, Egypt is interested in advancing its relations with the southeast European countries, this interest is motivated by many factors including the geographic proximity and the eastern tendency I would say. Egypt has engaged with many countries in that region to advance and develop its relations, we have the trilateral mechanism with Greece and Cyprus, Egypt was invited to participate in the last summit of the Visegrad pact. Of course, there are a lot of potential opportunities that could be achieved. And we are looking forward to participating in any platform that could help us to achieve that.
R: Thank you, Excellency!