EU sets re-engagement agenda with Zim

HARARE – Phillipe Van Damme, the European Union ambassador to Zimbabwe, has said Zimbabwe should fix its economic framework, political field, as well as the rule of law for the re-engagement process to proceed smoothly.

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euRelations between Zimbabwe and the European Union have been frosty going back a decade ago after the bloc imposed sanctions on President Robert Mugabe, his inner circle and selected firms in 2002 over alleged human rights abuses.

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But the relations have thawed in recent times since Mugabe’s contested re-election in 2013. The EU has already made a policy announcement announcing its re-engagement with Zimbabwe at its meeting in November last year.

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Van Damme said the bloc appreciated the willingness shown by Zimbabwe to re-engage with Europe, which is commemorating the Europe Week this week.

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“I have been here now seven, eight months in Zimbabwe and I think we should be grateful for the way Zimbabwe has been willing to re-engage with Europe,” Van Damme told the Daily News yesterday.

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“I think we have offered our hand and have been re-engaging in a significant way

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“And this week we will show how we are re-engaging by launching a couple of projects, this week, next week …., which really shows our commitments to re-engagement, which hasn’t prevented us of course to have some concerns, including in terms of clarifying the economic reform agenda, we still have mixed messages in this field.

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“I think it’s imperative, considering also the economic challenges of this country, to sort out the economic reform agenda as soon as possible so that the government can attract investors, domestic and foreign investors to make this economy grow again.”

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The EU delegation will this week commemorate the Europe Week with several activities, including launching of the Parliamentary Support Programme, prize giving for schools on sexual reproductive health, engaging with the youth, signing of the new EU grant to the Health Transition Fund, as well as an EU Day reception.

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Van Damme said the issue of Itai Dzamara’s abduction and the eruption of political violence were matters of “deep concern” to Europe.

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“We have to restore and reinforce the rule of law of this country in Zimbabwe, that’s why we have been engaging with the government on Constitution alignment issues.

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“We launched a project a couple of weeks ago and we have to re-engage with government on the reinforcement of the role of the Parliament as the body which controls the executive and which frames the legal framework of this country, and work with government to strengthen judiciary.”

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Van Damme said the reconciliation process was a tremendous political process, with lessons for the rest of the world.

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“It’s an example of how people can overcome the past to come to a process of collaboration for the betterment of people of the countries which fought each other for years and for centuries.

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“And the values are universal, of democracy, rule of law, human rights, solidarity among people,” Van Damme said.