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What are Egypt’s foreign policy intentions?

The unarticulated foreign policy of Egypt leaves too much space for interpretations that could be damaging

Maria Dubovikova

Published: Updated:

Egypt is standing at the crossroads. Revolutions denoted that the Egyptian people could not continue the same way any longer. The choice made after revolution, when the Egyptians had to choose between the representative of the old regime and the Muslim Brotherhood, could hardly be considered a choice made in a healthy environment. The coup was inevitable and the majority of Egyptians praised it. Revolutions inspired, liberated public consciousness, opened the door to new chances and opportunities, but did not draw a path to the future. Egypt is charting a path without a clear understanding or where it is heading.

Economically, Egypt is balancing between deep economic crisis and an economic boom. The economy cannot carry most of the subsidies, permitted to keep the prices on basic foods at a low level. Meanwhile, the population is growing. In the past six months, the population has 92 million. The burden on economy is becoming immense and sooner or later the government will have to take birth control measures, I believe. The country is suffering from an extremist and terrorist threat. The Muslim Brotherhood too does not contribute to the country’s future. The economy is still in turbulence after two revolutions and due to instability, while before the crisis the economy was performing with seven percent annual growth. The newly imposed austerity measures, due to a deal with the World Monetary Fund, damages social stability and weaken support of the government by the society.

At the same time, there is an economic and investment boom. According to the UNCTAD 2015 World Investment Report, Egypt in the top five African countries in terms of attracting foreign direct investments. The UK is the key investor in Egypt, with 41.5 percent of investments made to Egypt in 2014-2015, followed by the US with just 16.4 percent. Egypt’s newly discovered oil rich field is one of the key points of attraction that will supposedly enrich not only the country itself, but its investors as well. The leading industries in terms of foreign investments after the oil sector are construction, telecommunications, financial services and healthcare sectors. Also, Suez-II, despite all skepticism, apparently has a chance to become a zone that will guarantee Egypt prosperity and a significant role in the world’s trade in a mid-term perspective, with all these modern industrial zones of world countries to be built in Suez-II area. Development of nuclear energy, renewable energy, including solar energy, attracts more and more investors from all over the world, consolidating the prospects of Egypt’s complete economic recovery, however it will not be fast.

The inarticulate foreign policy of Egypt leaves too much space for interpretations that could be damaging

Maria Dubovikova

The terrorist threat and unclear foreign policy could be the factors that bring Egypt to fur-there decline. Libya, on the one hand, and Sinai on the other. Egypt keeps on fighting with the enemy, which once beheaded grows two new heads. Egypt cannot handle its Libyan threat, that poses a drastic threat to Europe, Africa and the Middle East, without in depth global strategy in Libya. And in Sinai, without adequate systematic cooperation with neighbors and global powers, Egypt cannot make inroads.

The inarticulate foreign policy of Egypt leaves too much space for interpretations that could be damaging. Egypt’s desire for a political solution in Syria leaves more questions than answers.

In recent days, rumors have swirled that Egypt has secretly intervened in Syria, that Egyptian pilots fly Russian helicopters and that Egyptian fighter jets are deployed in Syria. These rumors are unfounded but exemplify concerns that Egypt could become involved. There is no use in explaining why an Egyptian intervention in the Syrian conflict would cause a dramatic shift and deep schism in the region, automatically making Egypt more vulnerable from the inside.

Having no clear rhetoric toward any foreign policy issue is good and bad at the same time. The reason is clear - Egypt is attempting to sit on all chairs at the same time without making a clear declaration.

Egypt has a chance to attain economic and social recovery. However, more than ever it depends on what Cairo is doing beyond its borders. Cairo needs to learn articulate its intentions, even the superficial ones. If not, Egypt will be damaged by the power of conjecture.

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Maria Dubovikova is a President of IMESClub and CEO of MEPFoundation. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations [University] of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia), now she is a PhD Candidate there. Her research fields are in Russian foreign policy in the Middle East, Euro-Arab dialogue, policy in France and the U.S. towards the Mediterranean, France-Russia bilateral relations, humanitarian cooperation and open diplomacy. She can be followed on Twitter: @politblogme

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