Tuesday

18th Feb 2020

EU reaction to Egypt coup: 'Awkward. Disturbing'

  • Pro-Morsi rally in Cairo (Photo: gregg.carlstrom)

EU countries are unsure how to react to the Egyptian army's removal of President Mohamed Morsi from power.

Ambassadors from the 28 EU states discussed Egypt at a meeting in Vilnius on Thursday (4 July) in the margins of events to launch Lithuania's EU presidency.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

The Dutch envoy, Marjan de Kwaasteniet, tweeted that the diplomats voiced "concern about arbitrary arrests of MB," referring to the military's detention of some 300 members of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood party earlier the same day.

Another EU diplomat told EUobserver that some member states "want to send a signal" to the army that it has gone too far, for example by suspending EU aid projects.

But at the same time, they do no want to look as if they back Morsi.

"It's awkward," the contact noted.

"Morsi was democratically elected, and you can't applaud military intervention in the democratic process. But then again, Morsi has not acted in the way that we would like our partners to act," the source said.

For his part, Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt echoed the Netherlands' De Kwaasteniet.

He tweeted that news of the Muslim Brotherhood arrests is "very disturbing," that the outcome of the army's actions is "far from certain" and that Egypt is at risk of "economic crisis."

The awkwardness was on display at a press briefing in Brussels the same day.

A spokesman for the European External Action Service (EEAS) ducked reporters' questions on whether events in Egypt can be described as a "coup d'etat."

He said: "We are, of course, not in favour of military interventions."

But he added: "It's interesting the army has said it intervened in order to avoid a bloodbath."

He declined to say what will happen to the €5 billion of EU aid earmarked for Egypt. "I am not aware of any urgent plans to rethink our aid programmes at the moment, but ... the dust is still settling on what happened last night," he noted.

The EEAS in a parallel meeting in Brussels on Thursday told EU diplomats in the Middle East working group that it is in touch with Egyptian politicians from all sides, urging them to keep the peace.

Political directors from member states' foreign ministries are to discuss the EU's response at a more high-level meeting in the EU capital on Monday.

The army on Wednesday put tanks on Cairo streets, put Morsi under house arrest and said on TV that it has suspended the constitutional order, pending future elections.

The move came after millions of Egyptians in recent days joined street protests calling on Morsi to go.

The Muslim Brotherhood also held rallies, with clashes between the two sides causing several deaths.

Morsi came to power after the Egyptian revolution in 2011, but his authoritarian style and Islamist policies have shocked secular Egyptians in urban centres.

The talk of suspending EU aid comes amid a crash in Egypt's tourist income.

Numbers have been bad ever since the 2011 revolution.

But Cyprus, Poland, the UK and the US issued fresh travel warnings on Thursday.

The new British advice told UK citizens who are in Egypt to stay at home or in their hotel, to "keep a low profile" and to "avoid crowds."

"Further protests are likely," it said.

"In view of the continued unrest and uncertain political situation in Egypt, the FCO [Foreign and Commonwealth Office] recommends against all but essential travel to Egypt except for resorts on the Red Sea," it added.

Interview

Egypt's turmoil was 'not a military coup'

Eighty-one-year-old Egyptian dissident Nawal El Saadawi says the army was right to expel the Muslim brothers from rule, but warns that the revolution has only just begun.

News in Brief

  1. EU budget to introduce rule-of-law condition
  2. Far-right rally meets counter protests in Dresden
  3. Chief negotiator: UK will not align with EU standards
  4. Budget commissioner sold off energy shares in January
  5. German far-right group 'planned mosque attacks'
  6. German family minister urges gender quotas in boardrooms
  7. Decision on Catalan MEPs' extradition postponed again
  8. German court orders Tesla to stop cutting down trees

Opinion

Trump's 'plan' for Israel will go against EU values

As someone who has been personally targeted by Benjamin Netanyahu's incitement against Arabs and Palestinians, Christians, Muslims and Druze, I still believe that peace is possible. But Donald Trump's 'plan' will be a gift to Netanyahu's campaign.

China spy suspect worked for EU for 30 years

The former EU ambassador suspected by German prosecutors of spying for China was Gerhard Sabathil, according to EU officials speaking on condition of anonymity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  2. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us