Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Dirk Niebel spoke to Deutsche Welle (DW) television about the situation in Egypt and what influence the international community could have.
DW: Given the current situation, should Germany put an end to its development projects in Egypt?
Dirk Niebel:“We already took steps ahead of the current escalation of violence, for example a freeze on debt swaps. In other words, steps that directly affect the government. On the other hand, we would like to keep up measures that directly help the people for as long as possible. Water supply projects, micro-loans for small and medium-sized businesses - these are measures that do not benefit the government, but specifically help the people. The earlier such projects come to an end, the more difficult living conditions - which are already difficult enough - will become.”
DW: The aim of German development projects was to promote democracy in Egypt. Has this type of support failed?
Dirk Niebel: “If we gave up whenever we faced difficulties (…), even if this means being faced with brutality and with hundreds of victims, we could never really achieve any long-term success in any country where there is or has been a conflict situation, or where there is political instability. We need to be persistent. And that’s difficult, because politics always requires quick results. But sometimes things simply take longer. After such a long period of feudal rule it is important to note that there is a civil society in Egypt, which is still weak, but is nonetheless politically interested and willing to shape the country’s future.
Just to give up and walk away would also mean giving up any possibility of exerting influence on the ground. We have a good network in Egypt, we have been working for more than 40 years with the political foundations there, which of course face their own challenges. These foundations not only have good contacts in political circles, they also have good contacts within civil society and within cultural and scientific circles. These contacts must now be strengthened (…). We do not support any political parties. We support people – people who want to get involved in society. They aren’t directly supported by the German Ministry [for Economic Cooperation and Development], but are supported by partners we have in Egyptian civil society, and by funds that are available for independent organizations. We particularly want all the minorities to be involved.”