EU praises Zimbabwe PM

Tsvangirai — on a trip to Europe and the United States to repair Zimbabwe’s tattered ties with the West — said he was looking for potential donors ready to make significant contributions to his economically devastated nation.

"What is important up front is to establish a long-term relationship," he said at a joint news conference with senior EU officials.

"It is, of course, important to recognize that in that relationship, financial support will be essential." 

President Robert Mugabe’s authoritarian rule has bankrupted Zimbabwe, saddled it with an atrocious human rights record and left the EU distributing only humanitarian aid, totalling C90 million (US$126 million) this year.

Tsvangirai met with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and EU Development Aid Commissioner Louis Michel.

All praised his efforts to improve the political and financial situation in Zimbabwe since he became prime minister of a national unity government following disputed presidential elections in March 2008.

"I think your courage and your tenacity and your leadership is a great asset for your country," said Solana. "You have shown in a short period of time a great capacity to help your people."

However, Tsvangirai was also told the Europeans were bothered by "sticking points," notably continuing human rights violations. These have led the EU to impose a ban on travel to Europe by Mugabe and his key aides, freeze their financial assets and cut off development aid normally available to developing nations.

In Harare Thursday, Amnesty International said the rights situation in the country remains grim despite promises of reform and that some in Mugabe’s party still regard violence as a legitimate political tool.

Members of the Movement for Democratic Change — Tsvangirai’s political party that shares power with Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party — continue to face arrest and harassment.