The European Union vowed on Sunday to “urgently review in the coming days its relations with Egypt” and to remain, in cooperation with its international and regional partners, “firmly engaged in efforts to promote an end to violence, resumption of political dialogue and return to a democratic process.”
In a joint statement, the European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy described as “very worrying” the recent developments in Egypt, and more particularly the violence of the last days.
Pointing out that “it is crucial that violence ends immediately,” and that “all should exert maximum restraint,” the EU leaders said however that it is up to the Egyptian interim government and army to put an end to violence.
“We underline the particular responsibility of the interim authorities and of the army in bringing clashes to a halt. The violence and the killings of these last days cannot be justified nor condoned. Human rights must be respected and upheld. Political prisoners should be released,” the statement said warning that any further escalation could have “unpredictable consequences for Egypt and for its broader neighbourhood.”
The EU leaders also called for a political dialogue to restore democracy, insisting that “there is no alternative to dialogue.”
“All the Egyptian political forces must recommit to the country’s democratic future and engage in a political process leading to the early holding of elections and the establishment of a civilian government. This was also the commitment proclaimed by the interim Government when it assumed power. The Egyptian Army must respect and support such a political process.”
“The calls for democracy and fundamental freedoms from the Egyptian population cannot be disregarded, much less washed away in blood,” the statement said.
France and Germany had already raised the possibility of reconsidering the EU’s cooperation with Egypt during a phone talk Friday between French President Francois Hollande and Chancellor Angela Merkel. The two leaders called for an EU foreign ministers meeting “in order to take stock of cooperation between the European Union and Egypt, and to develop common responses”.
Meanwhile the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton said in a statement last week that she had asked Member State representatives “to debate and coordinate appropriate measures to be taken by the EU in response to the situation in Egypt”.
Describing the toll of death and injury as “shocking,” Ashton said “responsibility for this tragedy weighs heavily on the interim government, as well as on the wider political leadership in the country.”
Contingency measures to be taken by the European Union in response to the situation in Egypt are to be discussed this Monday in Brussels by EU diplomats who will draw the agenda of an emergency meeting of Foreign Ministers scheduled to be held later this week, probably on Wednesday.
According to observers, the EU may reconsider the 5 billion euros it promised to grant to Cairo in the form of loans and aid if the country promotes democracy and may also halt arms deals stricken previously.
Meanwhile, many European countries have issued a travel warning advising their citizens against going to Egypt, whose economy heavily relies on tourism returns.