EU foreign ministers back call to upgrade relations with Egypt

EU foreign ministers back call to upgrade relations with Egypt Luxembourg - The European Union and Egypt hope to forge a stronger relationship within a year, diplomats said Monday after the EU approved Egypt's request for an enhanced partnership. "Enhancing the relations means you work with the EU and you put the relations on a higher level, the maximum you can attain without acquiring membership," Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit told journalists after talks with EU counterparts in Luxembourg.

"I'm sure that next year we would have that final agreement on the enhancement of relations between Egypt and the EU as long as our commitment and the EU commitment is there to push for it," he said.

The EU "supports Egyptian efforts to work on closer ties ... (and) has decided to go a step further to enhancing relations," acknowledged Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Jan Kohout, whose country currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.

Egypt is a key member of the EU's "neighbourhood policy" and the current co-chair of its new Union for the Mediterranean. In 2008, Egypt asked the EU to work on improving bilateral relations in areas such as research and development, trade and democratic reforms.

The EU's approval of that request on Monday paves the way for the two sides to launch technical consultations on how best to put the agreement into practice. Aboul Gheit said that he hoped for the first meeting to begin "soon."

EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner would not give a deadline for the conclusion of talks, but said that it would be "fantastic" if they were finished within a year.(Dpa)