Interview with H.E. Mr. Said Mohamed Elsaid HINDAM (Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary)

On Friday 13th of August H.E. Mr. Said Mohamed Elsaid HINDAM, Ambassador of Egypt, invited representatives of PRAGUE FORUM – Mr. Hans Weber, Dr. Pietro Andrea Podda PhD., Ing. Milos Janu, for interview and discussion about Czech-Egyptian relations into his embassy.

How long have you already been posted to Prague?

I arrived to Prague on 26th of November 2018 to assume my diplomatic functions, yet it is not my first trip to this beautiful and historic city since I attended the same year in April the ECOSOC preparatory meeting “Towards sustainable, resilient and inclusive societies through participation of all” representing the Presidency of the G77 and China group. I also hold good memories of my visit to Prague in 2006 for the Egyptian-Czech political consultations as I was the director of Central Europe and Baltic States affairs.

Please tell us something about your career?

I started my career in 1986 as a Diplomatic Attaché at the Institute of Diplomatic Studies and was first assigned to Geneva for additional training where I had the occasion to be close to the arbitration case with Israel on the delimitation of our joint borders. I had then the opportunity to gain a wide experience in different departments all along my career for over 35 years in the Arab, Asia, Africa, Multilateral, Diplomatic Institute, Europe, Policy Planning and Crisis-management departments. As well, I assumed the responsibilities a Deputy Foreign Ministers for International Cooperation and later Deputy Foreign Minister for Multilateral Economic affairs.

On the Foreign postings side I worked in Mauritius, South Africa (with the UNOMSA operation), France, Croatia, Jordan, Brussels, Pakistan and finally here in Czech Republic and non-resident in Montenegro.

I consider my long career as a very rich accumulated experience that gives a global overview and wider consideration multifaceted towards any region in the world.

Have you visited many parts of the Czech Republic and what did you like most?

Indeed, I have visited almost all regions in the Czech Republic whether in Bohemia or Moravia, where I traced the history and the landmarks in this beautiful country. The most fabulously attractive to me remains Prague city where the architecture is very rich and the vibes of the city are lively and positive. Not to forget that it has been home to me for more than two years. You can trace my walks through the city in the pictures I publish on social media putting emphasis on the combination of art and the city atmosphere on different climate conditions all through the four seasons.

What are the main matters in the relations between Egypt and Czechia?

The main pillars on which stands high our relations dates with the first establishing of our bilateral relations in 1922 since the time of President Tomas Masaryk of Czechoslovakia:

The first pillar is economic relations with two major ingredients that are trade and investment. We have witnessed a growing volume of trade even through the times of the Covid19 pandemic that was amounting last fiscal year to nearly 600 million US dollars; a number that we consider modest compared to the high potential between our two countries, a drive for our embassy to exert all efforts in order to increase the volume of our bilateral trade.

On the investment side we have two big Czech investments in Egypt including in the fields of Textile manufacturing, while we only have one Egyptian investment firm in Czech Republic producing smart meters. We have been working on promoting mutual investment in production lines which initiated several projects currently under consideration. As well, we have promoted the possibility of block chain production between Egypt and Czech Republic where Egypt can supply the semi manufactured products demanding labour intensive production lines, while the goods gets finished in the Czech Republic with the value added tech ingredients, thus stimulating economic growth and dedicating the existing means of production to capitalizing on higher value-added, while maintaining the current level of population diversity.

The Second pillar I would say the political dialogue that have positively characterised our bilateral relations over the decades, creating a space of common understanding and partnership; as well as mutual support and sustainability of our close ties all through the various political changes both our countries have gone through. Such political dialogue has allowed for the Czech support for Egypt’s efforts in combating terrorism and playing a stabilising role in both the Middle-east and the Mediterranean regions. The presence of the Czech soldiers among the MFO forces in Sinai to monitor the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel is another outcome of such dialogue. As well, such special political ties Egypt is holding with the Czech Republic and the other Visegrad countries aims at further promoting and developing the partnership existing between Egypt and the EU.

In addition, other pillars on which stands strong our relations lay in the long standing cooperation in the fields of defence since September 1955.

Egypt has been a cradle of civilization thousands of years ago. What is the relationship that contemporary Egyptians have with their glorious past?

Egypt has remained loyal to its glorious past with great achievements that places the country at the centre of the world interest, I would recall here the Pharaonic project of building the “Suez Canal” that has become the most important trade route in the world placing Egypt at the centre of such interaction between the East and the West, as well as the North and the South. The recent blockage of the Canal and its impact on world trade and the block-chain production has shown the world the importance of such great project Egypt has accomplished for the world economies.

As well, Egypt has displaced the whole gigantic Pharaohs Temple of Abu-Simbel from the course of the Nile on to a higher Plateau in safeguard of its monuments and history of humanity in the irrigation of the High Aswan Dam.

In addition; even until today, Egypt has not stopped surprising the world since 2014 with its great achievements, notably the current mega projects of building 15 new cities at the same time that will accommodate millions of inhabitants in every city, including a new administrative Capital. You are probably aware that building a city is usually an accumulation of decades, now we are facing our rapid population increase by creating work opportunities vested in projects that are stimulating economic growth, all planned and geared towards a phenomenal unprecedented achievement in the record of world history.

What is the vision of Egypt as a political and military power in Africa?

Throughout the history Egypt has been an adamant defender of Africans’ rights, supporting all African liberation movements that resulted in the independence of the African states from colonialism. I personally took part in the UN mission observing the first equal, free and fair election in South Africa in 1994.

Today, as you know Egypt’s vision towards Africa is mainly concerned with insuring stability and development, both of which are the drive towards economic growth and sustainable living conditions. Many African countries have, during the last century, suffered from economic abuse and political unrest, both of which are cause-and-effect of each other. Such vicious-circle has placed many countries among the poorest economies of the world, the least developed countries, the most dependant on aid.

We are working to break this vicious-circle through capitalising on modernized high yielding agriculture technology, with regulated modern irrigation methodology, and the establishment of value added on raw material through supporting the industrialization of those countries. To this end, Egypt had established a special fund for African Development.

Not only that Egypt took part in every single UN peace keeping mission in Africa (and beyond) since the 1990s, but Egypt is still playing a stabilising role in the African hemisphere. I was personally assigned the role of establishing the Cairo Centre for Conflict resolution and Peace keeping in Africa (CCCPA) that has recently increased its mandate onto Cairo International Centre covering the whole world. Our political and security vision towards Africa has a special emphasis on economy that will not only help the African nations but the European countries as well, taking into consideration the fact that political stability and the creation of sustainable jobs will offset the migratory tendencies in a quest for bread-earning and safe decent living conditions. Our view for Africa can be summarized in “Importing Technology not Guns”.

A thorny question: some European governments have manifested some concern for the respect of human rights. How is the reality?

You have to understand that Egypt is a pioneer country in human rights since the time of The League of Nations and later the creation of the United Nations Organization in 1945, a leading country in drafting the International Covenant of Human rights. What we have been through during the 1960s, not very different of Czechoslovakia, we adopted Socialism where the rights of the majority and the masses was prevailing over the individual rights. An era some qualify as the predominance of the majority rights. Since the change from socialism, along with the fall of the iron curtain, Egypt has put an emphasis on individual rights as well.

Since 2014, our main concern has been devoted to guaranteeing the utmost of the economic and social rights knowing that one is prone to political manipulation if basic needs are not fulfilled including the right for food, shelter and decent living. Look what the government of Egypt has done recently where you don’t see homeless errant in the streets eating from garbage, on the contrary, the government has been building new decent humane housing and moving in the people from the slums, the latter being torn down and reconstructed. We did not stop at just housing, but rather took up the responsibility of creating work opportunities for everyone reducing unemployment from 16.7% to 7.1% by building a huge network of infrastructure of roads and 15 new cities among other things. To give you an idea of the magnitude of the work the government has undertaken in a country of more than a 100 million inhabitants, we created new jobs that can easily absorb all the population of the Czech Republic.

Having said so, what some governments in the EU are speaking about are the political rights including the rights of association, which is an ingredient of the overall human rights that we equally cherish and respect. It is perhaps enough for you to know that, unlike other western states that where subject to terrorism, Egypt has not resorted to extra-judicial or out of borders means. In fact, you will not find a single person retained in prison in Egypt without a judicial sentencing. It is important to trace here what happened in Egypt during the revolution called the Arab Spring in 2011 and what we saw on the screens about the killing of Christians in Egypt under the pretext of a political ideology. For Egypt a crime is committed and the responsible must serve the sentence as per the law regardless of his political affiliation.

It is equally important to note that there is no impunity in Egypt, those who have breached the law shall be brought to justice, including a former president who was put to trial. As you are not allowed to organize a demonstration without approval of the state in Europe, the same rule applies to Egypt and the sentence will be served.

This does not mean that there is no abuse or violation of human rights by some individual cases; such violation, ounce proven, is sanctioned by law and you can find former police officers serving sentences due to abuse of authority.

The remarks we get from some countries, especially about the law concerning the retention under custody during investigation, reveals a serious attempt to undermine the prosecution understanding of the conditions of the cases investigated. Such remarks are clearly superficial not remembering when the Jihadi (blind) Cleric, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, was smuggled out of Egypt during bail and was found to be the preacher of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre.

In turn, we in Egypt have our remarks regarding many of the EU governments abuse of human rights that we discuss with the concerned countries with an aim to promote

the best practices in respect of human rights. We don’t pretend being the best in practice, but we are as well alarmed by some abuses that need to be addressed; especially regarding human trafficking. We are carefully monitoring the practice by a European state regarding moving orphans from third world countries.

Is tourism an important resource for your country, restarting as expected?

Tourism for Egypt is of course one of the ingredients in the economy, called the service industry, that contribute to the balance of payments especially with the countries where our trade with witness great imbalance. Yet, since Egypt has gone in the past through previous waves of terrorism, our economy has learned to do without and people working in the tourism industry have been accustomed to such situation. Therefore, the impact of the pandemic was not felt in Egypt as much as other countries.

For us in Egypt, tourism is not mainly a source of income but rather an important soft power promoting understanding and fraternity with other people in different regions of the world, reducing miss-understandings and bringing our countries closer to our tourism partners. People to people interaction has proven to be the best Ambassadors in our case.

Of course, while we developed a special standard for safe tourism during the peak of the pandemic in order to alleviate the degree of public upset in some partner countries, the whole industry has witnessed a certain degree of recovery around the world that is bringing a new normal where you are expected to be vaccinated or carrying a proof of COVID negative. For Egypt too, a big recovery of tourism is felt in the hotel occupancy rate and the demand on real-estate purchase in sea-side towns by foreigners.

There were recently problems with the Suez Canal, what are the lessons learned from this?

The problem of blocking the Suez Canal by a giant container freight vessel has underlined the importance of the Canal and its impact on the international trade and the block-chain production around the world. It has proven that the project of digging a dual carriage corridor for the Canal as initiated recently by the Government is very thoughtful and far-sighted project. A lesson learned is never undermine the work and the human capacity illustrated by the size of a dredger that caused the refloating compared to the giant vessel, a notion illustrated in the literature for children at school in some European countries now glorifying the work done by the Suez Canal Authority in-spite of the enormity of the challenge.

Can you tell us about the movement of the Capital of Egypt?

Not different from many other examples that preceded us, Egypt decide to build a new Administrative Capital where all the offices of the Government are being moved as of the current year. Such a decision served many purposes starting by reducing the congestion of the greater Cairo region currently accommodating 20 million inhabitant, in addition to 4 million visitor who goes to Cairo in the morning and leave in the evening everyday for administrative purposes with the government offices. The new administrative capital is expected to accommodate gradually 4 to 6 million inhabitant, in addition to the 4 million daily visitor, thus greatly alleviating the traffic congestion in Cairo, and allowing for the redevelopment and upgrading of the exhausted facilities and infrastructure in Cairo.

To this End, the government has invested heavily in the road infrastructure and transportation between Cairo and the new admin Capital in a way geared at smoothing a non-stop traffic with state of the art highways and overflying bridges, in addition to public transport connectivity, including a new Monorail, and a bullet train to link with all major cities.

What about the Egyptian community in Prague? What are the main occupations and what is the level of integration?

The Egyptian community in Prague is a wide spectrum predominantly formed from highly skilled professionals working mainly in all multi-national corporations, doctors, university professors, businesspersons, and the hotel industry. In addition, a good number of students is currently studying in the different universities in all over the Czech Republic. Some of our people who came here for a limited period married with Czechs and settled in the country, while many of them acquired the Czech citizenship, others returned to Egypt with their Czech spouses.

 

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