By Hossam Alaidy – *Spotlight on the relationship between Egypt and Poland. First of all considering the relationship between the two countries we have to put into consideration the long history of the two people and the two countries. The relationship was established already in 1920 after Poland got the independence after the first world war which we have celebrated a few days ago.
The official relationship was started just before the Second World War and was followed by the arrival of Polish people into Egypt. Their families later on followed to join them and stayed on after that.
Many Polish books talk about Egypt as the land of Great Civilization and the changes that took place in different times through different regimes. Polish people are interested in the Egyptian culture and history and we can see that on the other side too, the Egyptian society is interested in Polish arts. That was very clear with the 2000 audiences who came to the pyramids to watch the Polish classical music performance with huge interests from the Egyptian society who were there.
Now it is question about how to bring the potential two countries together, I think there is a lot to do still by the relevant ministries of culture in the two countries. For instance, recently our minister of foreign affairs was awarded a special title to be one of the prominent translator of the Polish language and has translated many books into Arabic. That professor will be awarded by the minister himself.
We also would like to use this opportunity to show to the Egyptian partner that there are some Egyptian who are already ambassadors of cultural relationship between the two countries. Also there are some exchanges between the theaters and cinema groups who come to Egypt to perform and Egyptians arts traveling to Poland to produce their arts in the internationals festivals. Both of the groups were awarded prizes and this proves to me and our Egyptian partner, the cultural potential between the two countries.
In the economic relationship, we should be aware that the two countries have changed a lot through the years and Egypt is now different. It is a partner that is ready to invest in many fields: last year one famous oil company, started working with the Egyptian partners trying to discover new oil fields which we hope to lead to new energy resources. This investment is only opening the doors for future investments in Egypt and we hope also there will be Egyptian investment into the polish market.
I want to emphasize that the reopening of the direct lines between Cairo and Warsaw that took place recently will make sharp benefits to both sides as the duration of travel is decreased from 11 hours and transit into third countries to be less than 4 hours in direct flight. This is a good chance for both sides of business men who have interests to start their business and trade where previous difficulties have been caused by the long duration of the travel.
*Ok let me ask are the polish investments in Egypt only about oil?
Before we were only speaking about oil and gas, as a result of reducing the time between the two capitals, many other investments will take place soon like the tourism sector as Egypt is number one destination for Polish people going out as tourists. Before tourists were mainly coming to enjoy sightseeing and the magic of Red sea, now with direct flight between Warsaw and Cairo we are hoping that the demand of visiting the capital will also increase.
Also again we would like to see Egyptians traveling to Poland and taking advantage of our infrastructure in the field of health and tourism.
*Does this mean that you are calling Egyptian investors to invest in Poland in the health and tourism sectors?
We advice both Egyptian and polish businessmen to seek for possibilities because it is a two way investment and not only one sided. 2012 will be historical moment in Poland’s history and we will host the European league with Ukraine. We know that Egyptians are very much attracted to the football and this competition will bring thousand of fans to visit our country.
This league will bring not only Egyptian but also Arabs from the Middle East to investment there in tourism and infrastructure sectors.
*Do you have any statistics about polish tourists coming to Egypt and Egyptian visiting Poland?
Till now we have had an excess of half a million of Polish tourists coming to Egypt and we expect that number to reach to 700 000 by the end of this year. Traffic to Poland was much less because of the issue no direct flight and this issue has now been rectified recently and we have invited some Egyptian authorities to see our infrastructure so we expect the coming spring and summer season in Poland to see many Egyptians and Arabs enjoying our country.
*Is there any scholarships provided by the Polish government to the Egyptian side?
There is an agreement between Egypt and Poland on educational exchanges and through this protocol we are offering each year several scholarships. Recently many private universities were open in Poland and we believe that due to the tied relationship between the two countries many possibilities of exchanging students and providing scholars will increase especially with the interests between the two countires.
*Is there any Polish interests to study in Arabic?
Of course, my colleague Mr. Karol the press attaché is an example, we have in Poland many centers that do not only teach the Arabic language but also explain the culture, history and the civilization. Many people are interested not only in learning the language but also the culture and everything about it. Many come here to see your country, some staying there to study the language, history and the Islam.
*Poland will lead the EU in 2011, what is your government plans for the presidency?
Of course there are plans but it still in the process of decision making, each country that take the presidency has to prepare itself and we our approved programmers will share it with our Egyptian partners, you will be one of the first who will know about our priorities, however right now is too early to speak about what we are preparing for the presidency.
*How does your country see the Palestine –Israel conflict?
Our interests is mainly that we would like to develop our contacts with both sides and others in Middle East and to strengthen this contact and relationship it has to be a clear environment that enable development to progress as fast as possible. For all this to happen it has to be a solution for the Palestinian issue, we among the EU are doing our best to sort this out. We believe in the Palestine rights to live in a free democratic state in peace with the neighbors and also the safety of Israeli people.
*Are you talking about two state governments?
We believe that the solution should be an exit on two states living side by side Palestinian state and the Israeli state.
*Spain foreign minister spoke about the convicted new Israeli law, in return Israel official said “fix EU problem first and then come to talk to us” what do you think of this?
I don’t have any comment and I am not in a position to reply to the Israeli foreign minister statement, I totally believe that everybody should try to find a solution to their problem. We as Poland are ready to share our experiences of independence with any willing side that is ready to listen. We had similar experiences from the past and changes were made without shooting a single shot and there is a possibility if there is wisdom to find solution to any problem but if the other is not willing to listen to us we are not in a position to impose our experience to them .
*What if one partner is willing to listen and cooperate and the other refuses?
I think the wisdom that we have showed that the both side to be willing to listen not just one.
*Do you think that EU have the power to fix this problem ever?
Again I am telling you that our experience is very useful as we gained the independence without any loss of blood and the possibility for change has to come from within meaning the EU are ready to help with our partners but without imposing our thoughts to any side.
*This was a diplomatic answer!
It is not only diplomatic but it is an answer that stands from my personal experience because I spent in Israel 10 years and 4years in Palestine, so I know how both sides think and behave like and I have a belief that the change has to come from within not imposed by external sides, and this is my personal belief.
*Tell us about your experience with both sides?
I believe it has to be directly discussed between them to facilitate things and I know that now there is isolation because both of them have some plans and are not willing to give them up. I know it is not a very easy situation like that as one occupied the other but I believe there is no other way to fix this problem unless they talk together.
*EU spokesman said that the issue is “our partner come to us when they need money.” any comment?
I don’t truly agree with this because there are many cases when people were coming to Europe not only for money but also to take advices, consultation and special help.
*What do you think about the Turkish attempt to join EU and the continuing refusal for them to join?
I don’t agree with EU when it insists to not accepting them, I am saying that clearly we in Poland are in favor of Turkey joining the EU as it is a very important country that is playing a big role in connecting Europe with Middle East and Turkey itself is part of Europe and we see them as future member of the EU.
*Does this means we will see Turkey as a member in EU during Poland presidency?
I don’t think so, there is huge process which must be taken, we for example took 15 years to adjust our system to the EU standards so they too have to adapt their system to the European Union in order for them to accept Turkey joining.
*If your country is supporting Turkey’s right of joining, why are some other countries refusing this?
It is very hard to answer this question, I am not spokesperson of the other states, I only can talk about the Polish position and I only can say here that we are supporting Turkey in joining the EU.
* Any words you would like to address?
First of all an expression of congratulations for what has happened through the last 30 years and there has been sharp changing in here: the way of life and the progress. For most of Egyptians this is not clear and it is natural, but believe me for people who have been here before this is very progressive. Secondly, Egypt in the time of transitions changed like smart villages and many other places, so I believe soon or later the people will see the difference on their own.