Senior diplomats from the European Union (E.U.) on Monday debated a response to a week of violence in Egypt that has left more than 600 dead, including proposals to halt aid programmes and suspend arms shipments.
The meeting of ambassadors came a day after top E.U. officials said the 28-nation bloc will “urgently review” its relations with Egypt.
While the E.U. lacks the military muscle that gives the U.S. a special position in dealing with Egypt, European nations are a major source of aid, loans, business and tourists for Egypt.
The E.U. last year pledged €5 billion ($6.7 billion) in loans and aid for Egypt. The flow of aid money, however, could be abruptly halted in the wake of the clashes between security forces and supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsy since last week.
Germany’s Development Minister, Dirk Niebel, told RBB Inforadio on Monday that Egypt will get “no further pledges this year” of aid from Berlin and added he has decided “that we won’t negotiate this year” on any debt relief for the country.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday also floated the idea to halt previously approved arms shipments to Egypt as part of a coordinated E.U. response.
The diplomats meeting weren’t expected to make decisions yet, but rather to take stock of the situation and lay the groundwork for a coordinated response, an E.U. official said. The policy response will then likely be finalised by the end of the week.
The E.U. in a statement released on Sunday said that it is the responsibility of the Egyptian Army and the interim government to end the violence and to embark on political dialogue to restore democracy, warning that the people’s calls for fundamental rights “cannot be disregarded, much less washed away in blood.”
Germany has issued travel warnings following last week’s violence. For Egypt, tourists from European nations account for more than 70 per cent of arrivals. If beefed-up travel warnings from many E.U. countries were issued and kept in place, Egypt’s economy would nose-dive which could in turn fuel further social unrest.
“In view of the situation, the fewer Germans there are in Egypt, the better and safer,” German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said in Berlin.