The EU has been criticised for its handling of the Libyan revolt. Some accuse Europe of being too slow in speaking out against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s violent crackdown on demonstrators.
However, the 27 EU nations on Wednesday raised the possibility of imposing sanctions on the Gaddafi regime.
There are three options under consideration: freezing Libyan assets; an EU travel ban; and/or an arms embargo. Some EU countries have already suspended deliveries of weapons to Libya.
On Tuesday, the bloc’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton announced the suspension of negotiations on bilateral relations with the North African country.
An estimated 100,000 people from EU countries will be evacuated from Libya before sanctions bite amid fear for their safety. The majority of them are employees of European companies that have invested heavily in Libya, mostly in oil and gas. Libya exports around 85 percent of its oil to Europe, mainly France, Germany and Italy.
Several EU governments fear serious consequences for their economies if sanctions are applied too soon. Italy sources 10 percent of its natural gas needs and 12 percent of oil from Libya, which remains one of its most important trading partners.