01/30/2013 10:50 AM

Uncomfortable Visit

Morsi to Face Tough Questions in Berlin


Egypt has once again been shaken by deadly riots this week, but President Mohammed Morsi still plans to visit Germany on Wednesday. The trip is vital, with Morsi hoping to obtain urgent funding. But he will face tough questioning from Chancellor Merkel.

It would be hard to imagine much small talk taking place between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi when the two meet on Wednesday in Berlin. The leaders have too many serious and pressing issues to address.

Morsi's first official visit to Berlin couldn't come at a more difficult time. A state of emergency has been declared in three Egyptian cities. Since Thursday, some 60 people have died in riots. And on Tuesday, the country's military chief warned the country could be facing collapse.

The president cancelled a trip to Ethiopia on Tuesday for a meeting of the African Union. But the visit to Germany is important to Morsi. Considerable money is at stake that the Egyptian leader urgently needs at a time when Egypt's economy is in a state of crisis, with unemployment and poverty rising. The country's access to foreign currencies is diminishing and the budget deficit is increasing.

Germany is one of Egypt's most important economic partners. Tourism is certainly one part of that relationship with hundreds of thousands of Germans still traveling to the country's Red Sea beaches each year even after the unrest of the Arab Spring uprising. The country is also Egypt's third-largest trading partner, with German know-how and investors held in high esteem by the Egyptians. Few countries receive more money from the coffers of Berlin's development funds than Egypt.

Germany had also been planning to incrementally forgive Egypt's debt by some €240 million ($324 million). But one month ago, Germany delayed its debt forgiveness program as well as the presentation of new development projects. At the time, German Development Minister Dirk Niebel said the delays were a product of domestic political developments in Egypt.

Morsi will likely face the following questions in his Wednesday meeting with Merkel:

As such, Morsi's visit to Berlin is unlikely to be a comfortable one. It is likely that he can forget previously planned debt forgiveness of €240 million. Berlin government sources are now discussing a much lesser figure of €30 million. Nor is Berlin prepared to talk about which development projects it is prepared to pursue. Initially, €360 million had been planned for such projects during the next two years.


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