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Sunday, 23 September 2018

Egypt edges one step closer to EU migration pact as officials agree to begin formal talks

**#8 Egypt edges one step closer to EU migration pact as officials agree to begin formal talks: It looks as though Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz swayed his EU counterparts to open formal talks with Egypt on expanding cooperation on stemming illegal migration, according to an Associated Press report on Thursday. “Egypt is the first country in north Africa that is ready to intensify talks with the EU…[and] has proved that it can be efficient,” Kurz said. “We’ve agreed on in-depth cooperation on issues such as migration, but also economic cooperation with Egypt.” Kurz gave little in the way of detail, but he did note that he doesn’t expect Egypt to sign on to build detention facilities for refugees (the EU prefers to call them “disembarkation centers”) an idea Egyptian authorities had previously rejected (catch an excerpt from Kurz’s news conference here, courtesy of Bloomberg TV, runtime: 0:50). (The Financial Times also has coverage.)

Word on the street is that talks have already started. European Council President Donald Tusk is set to meet with President Abdel Fattah El Sisi today to discuss the matter further, an unnamed EU officials tell the Wall Street Journal that talks have already started, cautioning they are “still at an early stage with nothing in writing at this point.”

What are we offering the EU? Under the agreement, Egypt would be expected to “step up its policing of coastal waters and divert refugees intercepted on the Mediterranean Sea to the North–African country,” the officials claimed.

What is the EU offering us? “In exchange, the EU would offer Egypt substantial investments and other financial incentives as well as diplomatic accolades, including high-profile visits to Cairo by European heads of governments.” The EU will be reaching out to other North African countries over the coming few weeks to discuss similar arrangements, Tusk said. A summit with Arab League states on the issue has also been slated for February 2019 in Egypt.

Background: Kurz, alongside EC president Tusk, had made a case to EU leaders last week that some form of agreement with Egypt and other North African countries was in order to ensure there are incentives to continue stemming the flow of migrants into Europe. Egypt and the EU had signed an MoU last year for a EUR 60 mn grant to stem the flow of illegal migrants to Europe, but it lacked the depth and structure — and total financial value — of the EU’s pact with Turkey on refugee management and assistance, despite calls from officials including German Chancellor Angela Merkel that a Turkey-style agreement with Egypt would help stem the flow of illegal migrants.

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