7th Dec 2022

EU signs gas deal with Egypt's rights abusing leadership

  • 'We want to diversify to trustworthy suppliers and Egypt is a trustworthy partner,' EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen said after meeting Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo (Photo: EC - Audiovisual Service)
Listen to article

The European Union will work alongside the Egyptian government on energy despite widespread human rights abuses under the leadership of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

European commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced in Cairo on Wednesday (15 June) the signature of a memorandum of understanding between Israel, Egypt and the EU to increase gas supplies to the EU.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The agreement comes as Europe tries to reduce its dependence on Russian fossil fuels in the wake of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

"We want to diversify to trustworthy suppliers and Egypt is a trustworthy partner," von der Leyen said after meeting Egypt's president al-Sisi.

The deal signed on Wednesday argues that natural gas will have an important role in the EU's energy consumption and electricity generation until 2030, recognising the need to scale up the production of hydrogen and other renewables in the near future.

Under the agreement, imports from Israel would involve gas being processed at Egypt's liquefaction plants before being shipped to Europe as liquefied natural gas (LNG).

But the trilateral agreement would allow Egypt to purchase some of the gas being transported to the EU and other countries through the Egyptian territory for its own consumption or export.

"This is a big step forward in the energy supply to Europe, but also for Egypt to become a regional energy hub," von der Leyen said.

"This is a historic day for the EU's energy security," said EU energy commissioner Kadri Simon.

The deal also includes measures to reduce methane leaks and promote the production of hydrogen.

While it does not create any legal or financial obligations for the EU, it is expected to push up investments in gas infrastructure in the country.

The memorandum, which will run for nine years, mentions the need to explore ways to encourage European companies to invest in natural gas exploration and production in Israel and Egypt.

Overall, the EU aims to import 14 to 15 billion cubic metres per year from Egypt, covering around 10 percent of the bloc's gas imports from Russia.

But other countries like Azerbaijan are seen as a potential alternative source for EU imports as Russia's stockpiles account for about 40 percent of all its gas imports.

'A blank check''

Von der Leyen's visit to Cairo and the new gas supply agreement have also renewed the debate over wider EU-Egypt relations given Egypt's dismal human rights record.

EU parliament's lead MEP on Egypt, Green Mounir Satouri, raised concerns on Wednesday over the use of EU funds to support the Egyptian government.

In a letter, he urged von der Leyen to press al-Sisi on human rights during her meetings in Cairo.

A group of NGOs echoed the same message last month, arguing that the lack of progress in Egypt's human rights record should have "serious consequences" on Europe's support for al-Sisi's government.

Earlier this month, the EU commissioner for neighbourhood and enlargement Oliver Varhelyi announced that the EU would be supporting Egypt with nearly €300m of EU funding — including €118m of direct budget support.

But Satouri said that the EU is issuing "a blank check" to the Egyptian government.

"These €118m of budget support will not benefit the people, but a dictator, and are contrary to the human rights approach of the EU and the European Parliament," he tweeted.

During a committee debate in the parliament on Wednesday, Varhelyi said that there were "no grounds" to refuse the payments, arguing that the funding was approved by the previous EU commission.

The EU parliament previously argued that the commission should refrain from financially supporting governments in third countries witnessing widespread violations of human rights.

"The human rights situation in Egypt requires a serious revision of the Commission's budget support operations and requires the restriction of EU aid to primarily supporting democratic actors and civil society," MEPs said in a resolution in 2020.

The EU-Egypt Association Council, which will take place in Luxembourg on Sunday (19 June), is set to endorse the new partnership until 2027.

France under EU pressure for surveillance sales to Egypt

The European Commission is asking French authorities to explain whether they authorised the sale of cyber-surveillance tools to the regime in Egypt, posing questions over possible violations of EU export rules.

EU eyes job deal with Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia

The European Commission wants to set up so-called "talent partnerships" with foreign states to help fill the labour gaps in the EU — on the condition they help prevent irregular migration.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  4. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  5. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  6. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe

Latest News

  1. EU takes legal action against China over Lithuania
  2. EU Commission shoring up children's rights of same-sex parents
  3. The military-industrial complex cashing-in on the Ukraine war
  4. EU delays Hungary funds decision, as Budapest vetoes Ukraine aid
  5. Borrell gets pension from MEP fund set for taxpayer bailout
  6. Autocrats make us all less secure
  7. Big Agri's lies: green EU farming not to blame for food insecurity
  8. German top court declares €800bn EU recovery fund 'legal'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  2. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  3. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us