An Egyptian parliamentary delegation, led by parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Aal, paid a three-day visit to Ireland Sept. 24, during which they met with high-ranking officials including President Michael D. Higgins and parliament Speaker Sean O Fearghaíl.
The visit came upon an invitation from the Irish parliament speaker who had visited Egypt in January 2017.
During the visit, ways to enhance bilateral relations in different fields were discussed. Abdel Aal said that the relations between Egypt and Ireland began 40 years ago. He expressed his country’s keenness to benefit from the Irish expertise in livestock breeding technology and to import its distinctive livestock breeds, with the aim of developing livestock strategies and improving the cattle strains in Egypt.
Egypt's parliamentarians believe that the visit was remarkable, especially after it witnessed the launch of the Egyptian-Irish Friendship Society.
Abdel-Hamid el-Demerdash, member of parliament and Egypt's head of the Egyptian-Irish Friendship Society, told Al-Monitor, “The visit was successful and fruitful. The Egyptian and Irish officials held talks for ways to boost bilateral cooperation in the coming period in many fields — such as agriculture and food industries, education, tourism and civil aviation.”
He added, “The aim of the society is to create the right atmosphere to support the economic relations between the two countries and to push forward joint investment in agriculture, animal production, new and renewable energy, and biotechnology."
Demerdash said that Irish livestock and slaughtered animals would soon be exported once again to Egypt.
Egypt’s Ministry of Agriculture banned the import of Irish meat in 1997 because of mad cow disease. In January 2017, an agreement was signed between the Egyptian authorities and the Irish Department of Agriculture to resume export of Irish meat. Following the recent Egyptian delegation's visit the agreement will be activated.
Egypt is regarded as the third-biggest destination for Irish agri-food products to Africa, with exports of $52 million in 2015, of which $35 million was for dairy products and $14 million for seafood.
During the visit, Demerdash discussed with the Irish minister of agriculture, food and the marine, Michael Creed, ways to enhance investments in Egypt through increasing the Egyptian exports of vegetables and fruits as well.
The visit also tackled cooperation in education and information technology, the promotion and development of bilateral relations in counterterrorism, and the promotion of cooperation opportunities in medicine and renewable energy between the two countries.
Commenting on the visit, Egyptian Ambassador to Ireland Soha Gendi told the Middle East News Agency that the Egyptian delegation’s visit witnessed the inauguration of the Egyptian-Irish Friendship Society between the two parliaments, which will work to strengthen the cooperation between the two sides in order to make Ireland a voice for Egypt within the European Union and its parliament, as well as Egypt's support for Ireland within the Arab and African parliaments.
Gendi noted that Egypt and Ireland are converging on many goals, opinions and humanitarian principles. She described Ireland's position on the Palestinian issue as “honorable,” stressing that Egypt is working to activate joint cooperation between the two countries regarding the Palestinian cause.
Moreover, she stressed the existence of permanent consultation between the two countries in several files of common interest, such as climate change, the achievement of sustainable development, and disarmament and peace.
She added that Ireland is a country that takes neutral political positions.
Gawaher el-Sherbiny, parliament member and member of the parliamentary Agriculture and Irrigation Committee, applauded the Egyptian delegation's visit to Ireland and described it as "distinguished and expected."
She told Al-Monitor that Egypt is keen to develop its livestock and offer red meat to its ordinary and poor citizens at affordable prices. “For that reason, it was necessary to exchange experiences with a country like Ireland, which is nearer than Brazil, for example, in improving the livestock breeds,” Sherbiny said.
She added, “Agricultural research centers in Egypt are working at the highest scientific level. So the mutual exchanging of experience in this field will benefit both countries."
She pointed out that Ireland is famous for horse breeding, and that Egypt is interested in the prospect of cooperation in this area, especially since equestrian sports have been practiced in Egypt for centuries.