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Egyptian foreign minister on first high-level vist to Estonia


Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Hassan Shoukry arrived in Estonia on Tuesday in Egypt's first ever high-level visit to the country, during which he met with President Kersti Kaljulaid and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser (SDE).

Kaljulaid wrote on social media that at her meeting with the Egyptian minister, the two discussed bilateral Estonian-Egyptian relations, the situation in Northen Africa and the Middle East, potential areas of cooperation in the digital field a well as the two countries' cooperation in international organizations.

While in Tallinn, Shoukry also met with Mikser, his Estonian colleague. In discussing Estonia's current presidency of the Council of the European Union, Mikser affirmed that stability in Europe's southern neighborhood and more broadly in the Middle East is very important to Estonia. "The situation both east and south of the EU is of strategic importance to us, as it is directly related to European security," Miker commented.

Estonia, Egypt to increase cooperation

The two foreign ministers affirmed at their meeting that the EU and Egypt must together find solutions for for the issues of illegal immigration, extremism and terrorism. "In order to cope better, cooperation and the exchange of information need to be stepped up," said Mikser, according to whom Egypt is a key partner to the EU in these matters. Mikser and Shoukry affirmed that bilateral Estonian-Egyptian relations are good and discused potentiall opportunities for further increasing cooperation. "Estonia, on its part, remains ready to share its experiences wih e-government," said Mikser. "We will also contribute to digital topics at high-level EU-African summits."

The Estonian minister also expressed hope that the Egyptian tourism industry would recover, as it was a pillar of the Egyptian economy. He noted that Egypt has been a top tourist destination for Estonians, but also stressed the importance of ensuring tourist safety there. Mikser also acknowledged Egypt's progress thus far in implementing economic reform, and the two likewise discussed cooperation in international organizations as well.

Riigikogu committee chair: Your success is our success

While in Tallinn, Shoukry also met with Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu Marko Mihkelson (IRL). "In many cases, your success is also our success," Mihkelson said at their meeting, referring to security and stability in the greater region. According to the Estonian MP, an internally stable Egypt with its influence plays an important roll in seeking resoolutions to conflicts in the Arab world, which is also why it is important for Western countries to focus more of their attention on relations with Egypt.

While the number of Estonian tourists to Estonia has fallen off sharply from 100,000 in 2008 to just 9,216 last year, both side expresed hope that this trend would turn around and tourist numbers would begin to ruse again. Mihkelson also added that international trade had a long way to go before returning to 2010 levels. Shoukry confirmed at their meeting that the Egyptian government took the ensuring of safety very seriously the region and continued to fight terrorism wtihin its own border as well. He also noted that when Egypt was succesful, this had a positive effect on development in the entire region as well.

According to the Egyptian minister, political and economic reforms in Egypt are very big challenges for the country's government, but he added that Egypt is very interested in Estonia's experiences with e-governance and the fight against corruption.

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