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LE MONDE EGYPT | INTERVIEW H.E. Khaled Abdel-Rahman Shamaa “Egypt is moving into a stable and progressive phase.“ H.E. Khaled Shamaa, the Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to Austria, outlines the path of his country towards more economic growth and the range of new security measures already implemented. Interview: Rainer Himmelfreundpointner KHALED ABDEL-RAHMAN SHAMAA PHOTO: RALPH MANFREDA Anyone having the privilege of visiting the Egyptian Embassy in Vienna‘s 19th district, immediately feels the joys of some gentle breath of history, as if the spirits of ancient pharaos would still be around in what is one of the most beautiful Embassy buildings of the city. When Khaled Shamaa, the Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to Austria, sat down with „Cercle Diplomatique“ for an exclusive interview in early February 2016, he therefore first embarked on the deep historic ties between Egypt and Austria. The first major cultural and technological exchange took place in the middle of the 19th century, when the Austrian engineer Alois Negrelli took part in the plannings of the Suez Canal, which were inaugurated on 17 November1869, with a high level celebration which Austrian Emporer Franz Joseph I. payed his visit. ”That was more or less the first high level visit of state“, Khaled reports. After World War II, many Egyptians started to study at Austrian Universities which led to the formation of a large Egyptian community in Austria, up to nearly 150,000 Austrian tourists visiting Egypt last year, and strong economic relations. In the light of the recent political developments in Egypt, this aspect is gaining more and more importance, the Ambassador points out in the interview. In his opening statement he starts with a roundup of Egypt‘s current political constitution. CD: Your Excellency, can you please share with us your view about the state of Egypt and its political framework five years after the revolution, also known as the ”Arab Spring“? KHALED SHAMAA: These last few years were quite turbulent, during which Egypt has witnessed two revolutions in 2011 and in 2013. But we are now moving on, not only into a stable but also into a progressive phase. For the first time we have a constitution that has been elaborated extensively by leading Egyptian figures from all works of life, which has been approved by a national referendum and that was lately followed by Parliamentary elections. The new Parliament has historically the highest representation of women, Copts, and intellectuals. Therefore, it could be considered a true representative of the people of Egypt. So things are moving in the right direction. But that does not mean that there are no challenges ahead. Thanks to its high birth rate, Egypt is growing by some two million people each year. Can the economy provide enough jobs for your expanding population? The economy is one of our main challenges. We need more jobs, education, healthcare and housing. To address this issue, Egypt has launched several development projects – some are mega-projects, many others are platforms for small and medium enterprises – in agricultural, energy, infrastructure and housing among others. Several Austrian companies have participated or are planning to participate in such projects, including in renewable energy and water management systems, with several Memorandums of Understanding for cooperation already concluded, including the leading Austrian company Kapsch. Funding for such investment projects has been secured through cooperation with many partners including the Gulf states, China, India, Germany, UK and many partners, and also from private investments. As a matter of fact one of the major investment projects that was completed recently, namely the expansion of the Suez Canal, was totally funded by Egyptians. And as for the economic activities with the European Union, which is Egypt‘s main trade partner, counting for more than 30 percent of trade volume? How would you judge the developments in this regard? There are already a lot of big investments, mainly in the energy sector, which is among the fastest growing sectors in Egypt. There are substantial investments in the exploration and development of oil fields from the Italian giant ENI, following a major discovery of gas fields in the Mediterranean. From Siemens we have a deal to construct twelve power stations. All of these will also provide value addition in terms of training and education, which further contribute to the economy at large. Can you give us some examples of Austrian companies active in Egypt, since our trade volume of some 300 million Euros seems to have catched up lately? Well, apart from Kapsch, Frequentis, Fabasoft, Vamed, Siemens Austria and many other Austrian Companies that are or have been doing business and investment in Egypt, we have had an increased exchange of business delegations between the two countries. We had a visit by a delegation from the Egyptian Federation of Industries in February of last year, and just recently a business delegation organised by the Austrian Chamber of Commerce has just completed a visit to Egypt. In all our business and technical cooperation with Austria, we emphasise also the value addition to our transactions, namely the necessary technology transfer, but also The Egyptian Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Austria and Permanent Representative to the International Organisations in Vienna (since 2011), holds a Master of International Affairs from George Washington University. 34 Cercle Diplomatique 1/2016 Cercle Diplomatique 1/2016 35