By Vassilis Kopsacheilis*
Relations between Greeks and Egyptians are deeply rooted in history. Both are great Civilizations that impacted the Mediterranean and for long periods of time co-existed under interdependence.
Throughout this journey and until today, Greeks and Egyptians worked together, but independently, too. They clashed politically and militarily, but also cooperated culturally, economically and in trade matters.
This has been happening for thousands of years! But despite the differences, disagreements and the different interests, Greeks and Egyptians never felt hostile or even competitive one another.
Today Greek-Egyptian relations are at a level of good prospects, but they seem to have reached a limit and a new cooperation framework needs to be drawn up.
Through the Greece-Cyprus-Egypt Tripartite there is a level of strategic cooperation between the three states. This framework has mainly an energy and military scope. This framework should be strengthened. We have recently seen the importance of good communication with Cairo to defend Greek interests in the Sahel, with the stationing of a Greek force in Aswan to free Greek citizens from Sudan.
An important test of bilateral energy relations will be the inclusion of the Greece-Egypt electricity interconnection in the co-financed programs from the EU.
There has also been a first agreement between Athens and Cairo on the demarkation of the EEZ between them. It’s not the best deal for us, but under the circumstances, the Greek side didn’t have much room for maneuvering.
To plan the next day in our relations with Egypt, we should also take into account the dilemmas of Cairo vis-à-vis Turkey. EEZ, energy, Libya and the Muslim Brotherhood are four axes that trouble Egypt and largely determine Cairo’s relations with Ankara. This is a parameter that should not be ignored by the Greek diplomacy.
On the other hand, Egypt has pressing population, social and economic issues to deal with. This is where Greece, as a member of the EU, can become particularly useful for Egypt. The initiation of a serious European program for the Eastern Mediterranean, which will have actions and funding for Egypt, should be raised from Athens in Brussels.
If Egypt is left helpless in the face of its troubles, sooner or later it will also look to Turkey and then we will be talking about another lost opportunity of our diplomacy.
What Egypt would like to see from Greece, and which is something it needs, would be a Greek proposal to Brussels for the next day in the Eastern Mediterranean. A plan similar in philosophy to the EU’s TACIS and PHARE programs of the early 1990s for the Commonwealth of Independent States and Eastern Europe, adapted to present day’s needs for the Eastern Mediterranean.
The next day in Greek-Egyptian relations comes through the next day of a European Eastern Mediterranean. And based on this plan, Greece will be able to strategically and sustainably redefine its relations with Egypt.
*Vassilis Kopsacheilis is an IR advisor.