At an emergency meeting held yesterday in Brussels, foreign ministers from the EU member states decided to partially suspend the provision of arms to Egypt in light of the recent violence. The decision will rescind licenses which permit the export of military equipment that could be used for “internal repression”. However, this covers only certain types of military hardware and does not represent a total ban on arms exports. Currently, the top suppliers of military assistance to Egypt are Germany, the UK and Spain. For its part, the UK has already scaled back some of its contributions.
Overall, Europe has pledged a total of € 5 billion in aid to Egypt – € 1 billion is to come directly from the EU while the rest will be provided by individual member states. However, the majority of these funds are not destined for the Egyptian government. Rather, they have been earmarked for improving basic social services (sanitation, water supply) and for infrastructure development projects such as the construction of Cairo’s subway. Although this aid package was agreed to in November, only € 16 million has been paid out in 2013 so far. As David Butter of the Chatham House think tank explains, “[t]he € 5 bn package is linked to the government having coherent medium-term programmes.” The EU estimates to have spent a total of € 450 million in Egypt over the past three years.
The EU had a difficult time in preparing its response to the crisis because of the ire it has drawn from anti-Brotherhood groups who resent its criticism of the army. At the close of yesterday’s emergency meeting, High Representative Ashton stated on behalf of all EU ministers that they “strongly condemn” the violence in Egypt and that they feel the military response has been “disproportionate”. However the statement also labelled protesters’ attacks on churches and policemen in Sinai as “acts of terrorism”.
Yet new pledges from some gulf states call into question whether the EU’s actions can truly be effective. Soon after Morsi was removed from office in early July, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE promised Egypt € 12 billion in aid. Of this, € 5 billion has already been delivered – an unusually fast follow-through which “demonstrates the importance the Gulf attaches to stabilising Egypt.” By contrast, EU military aid to Egypt is worth around € 140 million per year.
(Flickr image courtesy of Rennett Stowe)