A sensitive country for Germany's current government coalition, Egypt is once again making waves in the German political circles. The authorization of export licences for three Meko A-200 frigates and 16 air defence systems on December 7 has already been criticized by the Greens and some SPD MPs because it was the day before Mr. Scholz was elected Chancellor…The opponents also noted that the export permits have been authorized in advance, while the common rule is that the latter are authorized shortly before the actual export (i.e, the delivery) is made…
Coalition members have now discovered a new German project in Egypt.
Peter Lürssen, managing director of the German shipyards, has met the Egyptian President five times in a single year, from August 2020 to August 2021. The first meetings were about the delivery – authorized by the previous coalition – of ten patrol boats (€ 130 millions), already produced by Lürssen for Saudi Arabian coast guards but whose export licences were revoked shortly after the assassination of Mr. Khashoggi. Stored in the Wolgast shipyard, they were finally exported to Egypt. The other meetings were about something more ambitious.
Peter Lürssen and the Egyptian leadership agreed on a general framework for local production:
-- First, the construction of the Adabiyah shipyard, located South of Suez, probably in collaboration with Samsung Heavy Industries;
-- Then, the production of a range of small armed patrol boats, specially designed for coastal protection.
From this new production site, the Egyptian ministry of military production would be able not only to produce patrol boats for the needs of the Coast Guards division, but also for regional customers, Egypt having the ambition of being the major security, production and trade hub of the whole region.
Given the close co-operation between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, recently reaffirmed by the set-up of a new joint naval command for the Red Sea, this project – ideally located in the Red Sea, not so far away from Saudi coasts - could bring to the Royal Saudi Navy the solution it looked for after the Germany imposed n export ban in 2018, which was recently extended for one year.
Obviously, this ambitious project goes against the ideas of some key-members of the German coalition: the Greens of course, but also the left wing of the SPD. While Mr. Scholz, acting as the finance minister of the previous coalition, decided not to go against the licences for submarines, frigates and air-defence assets, the newly-elected Chancellor Scholz will have less margins of manoeuvrer.
Mrs. Katja Keul, the new Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Foreign Affairs Department, made it clear that her minister would have been against the export licences granted on the 7th of December. Agnieszka Brugger, a Green MP and now Vice-President of the of the Greens in the Bundestag, is also totally opposed to any transfer of technology, military know-how and weapons to Cairo.
A fierce debate on this country could spark serious conflict among the coalition partners. The coalition contract only prohibits the export of arms to countries at war in Yemen, which theoretically excludes Egypt, but the Greens and the left wing of the SPD consider that Egypt is not a democratic country, and therefore should be banned.
To be continued…