First joint EU Arab summit in Sharm El-Sheikh

February 26th 2019

Under the co-chairmanship of the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, and the President of the European Council , Donald Tusk, , European and Arab leaders agreed to boost their partnership at the first-ever summit between the two regions which took place on 24-25 February.

In addition to regional conflicts (Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, and Israel-Palestine), shared strategic priorities including migration, security, economic development and global warming were discussed. In a joint declaration (1), both parties pledged to intensify their cooperation on security, conflict resolution and sustainable socio-economic development.

Migration, a central theme in the design of this summit, was only briefly discussed. At the request of the EU, the discussions took place behind closed doors. Nevertheless, the issue of human rights sparked differences at the closing press conference. In a question from a German journalist about the exact content of the human rights talks, the situation in Egypt and the support that Europeans could give to Arab civil societies, the General Secretary of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, objected that “No one has touched on any country's human rights practices”. Conversely, Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, declared “We have talked about human rights and a series of related topics at bilateral meetings as well.” Donald Tusk added” Our commitment to respecting human rights is common; dialogue is always better than confrontation”.

The Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi has stated that” We have our own sense of humanity, values and ethics, and you have your own idea of humanity and ethics, and we respect it. Respect our values and ethics, as we do yours."

Leaders have committed to regularly organize future summits between the EU and the Arab League. The next one will be held in Brussels, the home of the European Commission, in 2022.