Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak called for Europe to improve cooperation with the southern Mediterranean states in order to confront the global economic crisis

President Mubarak opened last month the Mediterranean Economic and Financial Forum in Milan, Italy, with the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi before a diverse delegation of ministers and industry leaders from nations of the Union for the Mediterranean (UPM).

Europe is Egypt’s important trade partner given that the volume of the European investments reached the level of that of the U.S. Within the last ten days, a major obstacle would have been removed before the Egyptian agricultural products to Europe as Egypt and the European Union (EU) are expected to sign an agreement to remove all obstacles before Egypt’s agricultural exports.

Mubarak delivered a keynote speech before the Economic and Financial Forum. Mubarak said the current economic crisis represented a “new challenge for us and for the world”. Poor countries risked “paying a high price” by losing competitiveness and becoming less attractive for foreign direct investment, he warned in his inaugural speech to the forum.

Wealthy European countries in the Mediterranean region should move to manage the recession “so that corrections do not negatively impact on developing countries,” Mubarak stated.
He also urged greater dialogue between rich and poor nations and more cooperation among Mediterranean countries.

During the forum, which focused on infrastructure, energy and smaller-sized enterprises, Mubarak advocated for financial and technological cooperation as a main tool to ensure security in the region, and touched on the goal of a Mediterranean free-trade zone.
He said that Egypt was holding its commitment to achieve 20 percent renewable energy use.
Six Egyptian ministers, including the minister of electricity, of petroleum and of transportation, accompanied the president to Milan.

And with the UPM approaching its first anniversary, the heads of state, including co-chairmen Mubarak and the French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy, will build a framework for its future.
The UPM was inaugurated last year as a cooperative organization spearheaded by French President Sarkozy to bring together the nations of the Mediterranean. It incorporates 43 nations, including all members of the European Union, and holds summit meetings every two years.
Mubarak was named co-chairman of the UPM with Sarkozy at its inception.

Part of his short European tour that includes visits with the Italian prime minister and French President, Mubarak convened with Sarkozy in Paris to discuss means of activating the Union for the Mediterranean. In fact, Sarkozy appreciates President Mubarak for his immense role in securing the stability of the Middle East. Moreover, Paris shares strategic partnerships with three countries of emerging economies: India, Brazil and Egypt.

“As a result of its informal nature and the ample attendance of representatives from economic spheres,” said the Italian Foreign Ministry in a press release, “the Forum is meant to become a significant annual event within the institutional and political context of the Union for the Mediterranean.”

Egyptian Minister for Foreign Affairs Ahmed Aboul Gheit stated that Milan Forum mainly stresses the economic aspects, targeting to achieve communication between businessmen, as well as representatives of banking bodies and institutions, within the Mediterranean framework. The forum will also focus on supporting economic and investment relations between the Mediterranean banks, while the upcoming session will tackle three issues, energy, the infrastructure and means to support small and medium projects as well as their funding sources. The Ministers of Transportation, Trade, Industry, Energy and Petroleum will participate at the Forum in addition to a number of Egyptian businessmen.

President Mubarak’s deliberations with Italian and French Presidents discuss the outcomes of the last L’Aquila G8 Summit, in which President Mubarak participated and discussed the proposed ideas to enlarge the G8 to be G14, and involve Egypt. Berlusconi and Sarkozy were informed of the outcomes of the recent NAM Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, and outline the Egyptian visions regarding the movement countries’ actions during the upcoming stage, under the current unprecedented events on the global arena

By Ahmed Morsy

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