Why has President Mubarak visited Italy? And why at this time? These two questions came to mind when I heard of Mubarak’s ninth visit to Italy, especially in light of the tense conditions in the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and even in Europe, as Greece suffers an economic crisis that threatens to spread to other Mediterranean countries.
Here is why President Mubarak has chosen to go to Italy at this time:
Italy is Egypt’s number-one commercial partner in Europe. The size of trade between Egypt and Italy is the largest in Europe. Italy is also the biggest recipient of Egyptian exports and is also Egypt’s second largest trade partner after the US. The size of trade between the two countries has exceeded €5 billion.
With capital investments in more than 650 companies in Egypt, Italy is ranked eighth among countries with investments in Egypt. Since 2005, the flow of Italian investment to Egypt has increased by around 162 percent. As such, Italy is the door to the EU, trade with which comes high on Egypt’s list of economic priorities.
The need for such cooperation is more pressing than ever. Countries of the Horn of Africa have been influenced culturally by Italy, which is also one of the biggest investors in the region. Italy is also one of the major donors to the region, besides being one of the G8 countries that determine the orientation of the world economy and the relationship between the North and the South.
Bolstering Euro-Mediterranean relations is one of the goals of Mubarak’s visit, especially in light of the partnerships and funding programs aimed at developing Egypt’s infrastructure. Mubarak’s visit will also open the way to Egyptian agricultural and industrial exports to Europe–a much needed step given the calls in Europe to achieve agricultural self-sufficiency through intra-EU trade.
Security is another realm of cooperation between Egypt and Italy. Being the closest geographically to Egypt, Italian ports tend to receive large numbers of illegal Egyptian emigrants. Cooperation in this regard has served to significantly curb this phenomenon. A recent agreement was also signed between Egypt’s Ministry of Manpower and Migration and its Italian counterpart to recruit 2500 Egyptian workers in Italy starting this summer.
With its pervasive influence in the Middle East and Africa and superior status in Europe, Italy was indisputably the perfect destination for the president at this time.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.