Egypt: EU seeks Ukrainian grain, fertilizer for Egypt as part of a support deal

The European Union is looking into the possibility of using shipments of grain or fertilizer from Ukraine as part of a wider deal on migration and economic support for Egypt, reported the Financial Times.

Brussels is negotiating an economic support deal with Egypt, as capitals worry the Israel-Hamas conflict could lead to a further increase in migration.

EU countries have been keen to work with northern African countries to keep people from crossing the Mediterranean, as irregular arrivals have risen.

“Egypt is very open to a comprehensive partnership,” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said following the EU summit on Friday where migration was discussed.

She said the agreement would follow “a similar blueprint” as the one sealed earlier this year with Tunisia, which included money for border management and economic support.

Details of the proposed agreement are secret, but two EU officials told the Financial Times that it could include provisions for food imports, a major economic risk factor for Cairo and its 110 million people even before the outbreak of conflict on its north-eastern border.

One particular avenue the EU is exploring concerns using the corridors established for exports from Ukraine to funnel agricultural products to Egypt, EU Council president Charles Michel told journalists, specifically mentioning fertilizer. 

Michel said that officials were working with Ukraine to do something “extremely helpful” for Egypt.

The commission has broad backing from EU leaders regarding the deal. “We will need agreements with the states of transit and origin . . . to ensure that irregular migration declines,” German chancellor Olaf Scholz said after the summit.

He also suggested returns of failed asylum seekers as a desirable outcome. One thing the Egypt agreement won’t refer to, however, is migration from Gaza.

Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has repeatedly said he did not want to take in refugees from the territory, and the message has arrived in European capitals too.

“I am sure that Egypt will not take in refugees from Gaza. Other countries in the region won’t either,”

Scholz said. He added that countries might however take injured people who had to be transferred to hospital for treatment.