Egypt and Serbia have been working during the past few years on boosting economic cooperation to expedite key segments of cooperation. There is a strong potential for intensifying the economic relations in agriculture, trade in agricultural products, investment and ICT
Good relations between Serbia and Egypt have not just been surviving but also prospering. The new Egyptian Ambassador to Serbia, H.E. Bassel Salah Mostafa Ahmed, spoke about economic cooperation between the two countries, tourism and cultural exchange, as well as also about the situation in Egypt in light of the current events in Ukraine.
The friendship between Egypt and Serbia has been validated many times. What are your plans regarding diplomatic and political cooperation between the two countries during your term?
Lately, I had the honour of meeting H.E. Mr. Aleksandar Vučić, President of the Republic of Serbia, and H.E. Mr. Nikola Selaković, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and both of them showed great interest in advancing bilateral cooperation between the two countries in all fields. I was assured that the two countries will continue their positive and constructive approach toward each other.
During my term, I will pay great attention to facilitating visits of top officials, attempt to hold political consultations headed by the two ministers of foreign affairs, organizing training courses for junior diplomats in both countries, and expanding cooperation in the political-security field especially in peacekeeping through the draft MoUs signed between the University of Belgrade’s Faculty of Security Studies and the Cairo International Centre for Training on Conflict Resolution and Peacekeeping in Africa (CCCPA). Also, there are many opportunities which can be exploited in areas such as agriculture, tourism, health care and the construction and machinery industries.
Can our economic cooperation improve and what does the Embassy do to facilitate the business and trade between the two countries, considering that nearshoring is the latest thing due to the container transport prices skyrocketing?
Egypt and Serbia have been working during the past few years on boosting economic cooperation to expedite key segments of cooperation. There is a strong potential for intensifying the economic relations in agriculture, trade in agricultural products, investment and ICT.
Egypt is focusing on two main mechanisms for boosting bilateral cooperation with Serbia. The first is the governmental mechanism represented in the Joint Committee for Economic, Technical and Scientific Cooperation, at its 19th Session that will be held in Cairo with the participation of a number of relevant Egyptian and Serbian ministries to discuss the prospects of the economic cooperation between both countries. The second mechanism is the private sector mechanism represented in the Egyptian-Serbian Joint Business Council, which its meeting will be held on the margins of the next meeting of the Joint Economic Committee.
To enhance the bilateral economic relations, the Embassy is coordinating several visits for businesspeople from Egypt. In July 2021, a number of business people from the tourism industry visited Serbia and held meetings with the officials and private companies in Belgrade and Nis. In September 2021, several business people from agricultural product export and import companies from Alexandria visited the International Agricultural Fair in Novi Sad and had a meeting with the Novi Sad officials in light of the cooperation agreement between Alexandria and Novi Sad.
We are facing tough times because of the war in Ukraine, with political pressures and a looming economic crisis. How is Egypt coping with all that?
Economic analysis shows clearly the negative impacts of the crisis of Ukraine on the global economy, compounded, of course, by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the global inflationary wave, which increased the prices of food and other basic commodities. The situation will deteriorate economy-wise worldwide if the current crisis resumes for a longer time. Ukraine is a major source of wheat, corn and barley in the world and the lack of yellow maize imports will raise the prices of basic commodities in the world which will lead to a rise price of meat and dairy products. Egypt is already affected concerning food commodities, especially wheat, as 80% of the wheat imports are from Russia and Ukraine.
“To enhance the bilateral economic relations, the Embassy is coordinating several visits for business people from Egypt”
The Egyptian government is keen on coordinating with all state agencies to provide sufficient essential goods for Egyptian citizens, especially wheat, rice, sugar, cooking oil, and meat and ensure that strategic stocks are at safe levels to avoid causing any shortages in the domestic market.
You participated in the Summer 2022 conference, which discussed the impact of the Eastern European crisis on tourism. Would is your opinion about that?
I participated in the conference and in my speech, I explained the importance of the tourism industry, which remains one of the main sources of national income for any tourist country like Egypt and as a result, we always pay great attention to developing the tourism sector. The current crisis in Eastern Europe may have had effects on the tourist destinations around that period but Egypt has numerous types of tourism, which meet all the requests of the travellers.
The most common type of tourism in Egypt is of course cultural tourism which is related to visiting the ancient monumental destinations which feature the timeless treasures of the ancient times. In addition, many other types of tourism encourage travellers to select Egypt as their top destination such as religious tourism, recreational tourism, medical tourism, desert tourism, eco-tourism, and diving and sea-related activities tourism. The effects of the crisis are tangible and clear, but we are hoping that it will have minimal effect on tourism in Egypt since it is a year-round destination.
What connected us in the past was taking the same side in wars, with the Yugoslav king taking refuge in Egypt in 1941. After that, the Non-Aligned Movement brought us even closer. Today, that’s tourism. What do you think the post-pandemic 2022 tourist season will be like?
Our friendship is rooted in long-lasting relations. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was a catalyst to highlight our similar views of the international community and our respect for international law and tradition. That being said, tourism connects us further, as Egypt has monumental sites and blissful climate throughout the whole year and a unique geographical location, which make our country the top destination listed in the travel plans of most travellers and adventurers. Also, we take pride in ourselves on the fact that we are well-prepared to receive tourists all year round.
Egypt is one of the best destinations for Serbian tourists. The number of Serbian tourists who visited Egypt increased vastly in the past few years. For instance, in 2021, the number of Serbian tourists in Egypt went up by almost 90% in comparison to 2019. The 2022 summer season has already started, and many Serbian tourists have decided to spend their Easter vacation in Egypt. The Red Sea coast has become the first-choice destination for most Serbian tourists.
Egypt is one of the countries that have moved their capital into a newly-built city. The new capital is going to be stunning. We visited it on a group trip in 2019. How is the construction going on? Have you picked the name for it?
The government has decided to establish Egypt’s New Administrative Capital City east of Cairo, which will alter the country’s infrastructure and usher us into a new era of modernization. It will also serve as a new centre for government buildings, ministries, embassies, universities, and corporations to provide a focal point for the country’s businesses. The city will span 168,000 acres, which is equivalent to Singapore area. Once the city is completed, it will have a population of 6.5 million people and job opportunities for 2 million people. This is a full-service city with shopping malls, high-quality housing units and an entire digital transformation system. Also, several advanced recreational infrastructure projects are being implemented.
“Egypt is one of the best destinations for Serbian tourists. The number of Serbian tourists who visited Egypt increased vastly in the past few years”
Currently, we are in the preparation phase. The State is racing against time to officially inaugurate the city which is envisaged as an architectural icon proving the value of the Egyptian State while simultaneously tackling one of the most difficult problems facing Cairo – overcrowdedness.
The Egyptian Embassy has initiated a strong cultural exchange between Egypt and Africa, on the one side, and Serbia, on the other. What are your plans regarding cultural cooperation?
I have to highlight the unique role that cultural relation plays in boosting the relations between our two countries towards Africa. Egypt is the gate for Serbia when it comes to introducing its culture to Africa and vice versa. The Embassy always promotes Egyptian folklore through cultural visits from Egypt or participation in several cultural events in Serbia. Currently, we are preparing for Africa Day and the celebration of Serbia and Africa Friendship Day in May 2022, in addition to our participation in the international folklore festivals in Serbian towns of Bogatić, Loznica, Sremska Mitrovica and Bečej. Finally, there is also the Nišville Festival 2022 which will take place in August 2022.