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Many plans in Portugal
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 23 - 11 - 2016

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi arrived in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon on 20 November for his first official visit to the country following the inauguration of Marcelo Rebelo De Souza as president in March. The president's visit comes within the framework of the two countries' keenness to take bilateral relations to wider horizons in the coming stage.
During his two-day visit, Al-Sisi is set to meet De Souza, the prime minister, and the parliament speaker, in addition to heads of academic, economic, scientific and international institutions. He is also due to meet Lisbon's mayor along with the business community. The president will also attend meetings with Portuguese business people on boosting investments in Egypt.
Several Portuguese companies have shown an interest in taking advantage of investment opportunities available in the Egyptian market, especially after recent economic measures adopted in Egypt, mainly the liberalisation of the local currency's exchange rate, said Portuguese Ambassador to Egypt Madalena Fischer.
Presidential Spokesman Alaa Youssef said in a statement that the president gave an interview with Portugal's state news agency LUSA in which he conveyed a message of appreciation and respect to the state of Portugal, pointing out that the visit to Portugal was the first by an Egyptian president in more than 20 years.
Al-Sisi affirmed Egypt's desire to enhance economic ties with Portugal, adding that trade between the two countries increased by 38 per cent in 2015.
The president also spoke about the recent US elections, saying he respects President-elect Donald Trump, adding he believes Trump will be more involved in the region and that the strategic role of the US in the Middle East will not diminish.
Al-Sisi congratulated the Portuguese people on the election of Antonio Gutierrez as the new secretary-general of the United Nations. He also praised the “balanced and rational stances” of Portugal towards the political situation and developments in Egypt.
During the interview, Al-Sisi said that Egypt represents a role model for religious tolerance and mutual existence and conveyed his administration's concern to endorse principles of human rights and equality.
Al-Sisi also talked about his meeting with Pope Francis in 2014 when he expressed his personal respect for the head of the Catholic Church and invited him to visit Egypt.
The president also highlighted Egypt's counter-terrorism efforts in North Sinai, stressing Cairo's efforts to balance between maintaining the country's national security and preserving democracy and human rights. “The government spares no effort to improve the basic services provided to citizens, such as health care and education, as well as providing adequate housing for all segments of society,” said Al-Sisi.
Fischer said Al-Sisi's visit to Portugal will boost cooperation between the two countries in the political, economic and cultural domains. “During the visit, Al-Sisi will have important talks on means of promoting cooperation and issues of mutual interest such as the developments in the Middle East, the Libyan crisis, combatting terrorism and illegal migration,” she said.
According to Fischer, Egypt is a promising portal of Portuguese exports to African countries, especially after the launch of the free trade zone of the three major African blocs (COMESA, SADC and EAC) in 2015.
“Several Portuguese companies have shown an interest in exploiting the investment opportunities available in the Egyptian market, especially after the latest economic decisions in the country, mainly the liberalisation of the local currency's exchange rate,” she said, pointing to promising fields for cooperation, including ports, pharmaceuticals, technology and new and renewable energy, urging the international community to back economic reform measures in Egypt.
In relevant context, the president left Portugal to Equatorial Guinea, Malabo, to participate in the Arab-African Summit.

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