The German chancellor has urged Egyptian authorities to ease limitations on civil society organizations. She has also pushed for further cooperation on bolstering Egypt's border security after meeting President el-Sissi.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday said that Cairo agreed to easing restrictions on political foundations after meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sissi.
"Germany's political foundations are in our opinion a very important contribution to the development of civil society," she said.
Human rights advocates have criticized Cairo for outlawing foreign funding for local organizations and, at times, shuttering non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including the Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture.
"Development cooperation is going well, but it can also be fortified with this clarification," Merkel said.
Any revision of laws regulating NGO activities in the country must pass through the parliament, and could face resistance from el-Sissi's supporters.
Merkel's spokesman Steffen Siebert said in a tweet that both political leaders discussed the importance of bolstering border security and providing assistance for refugees.
Citing Egypt's 500,000 Syrian refugees, the chancellor said Germany and Egypt shared a "common task to improve the fate of refugees."
Ahead of her visit, Merkel said she would pursue cooperation with Egyptian authorities to stem the tide of migration from the Middle East and Africa to Europe.
"Without a political stabilization of Libya, we won't be able to stop the human traffickers operating out of Libya who are responsible for by far the most arrivals in Italy," the chancellor said in her weekly podcast.
Egypt's porous borders with Libya have provided an easy route for human traffickers to smuggle migrants, many of them from Syria, to ports on the country's Mediterranean coast.
Cairo has often turned a blind eye to people smugglers operating from its own coastline, despite a constant naval patrol off its Mediterranean coastline.
In 2016, more than 360,000 migrants made the dangerous journey to Europe across the Mediterranean, roughly half of them arriving in Italy from Libya.
Cost of cooperation
Meanwhile, Merkel is expected to inaugurate the first phase of a major energy project spearheaded by the German company Siemens, which signed an 8-billion-euro ($8.41 billion) deal to develop gas and wind power plants in the Middle East nation.
Ahead of the visit, Germany's ambassador to Egypt Julius Georg Luy told state-run newspaper "al-Ahram" that "no new investments" would be signed during trip.
"Germany is indeed interested in investing in Egypt, but the German investor will still have questions of assurances in the sector," Luy added.
In an open letter, Members of European Parliament (MEP) and Middle East observers criticized attempts to boost economic and security cooperation with Egypt at the cost of political reform during Merkel's trip.
"Reining in abusive security forces, widening consultation and representation in policymaking and opening political space are necessary to set the country on a credible path to reform and stabilize it in the longer term," said a letter signed by MEP Marietje Schaake and Anthony Dworkin of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
ls/rg (dpa, epd, AP, AFP)