EU says Zimbabwe ties enter new phase but sanctions stays

HARARE – A European Union official says the EU will not remove sanctions targeted at Zimbabwean Robert Mugabe and his loyalists.

European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Karel de Gucht also said Sunday the EU won’t resume development aid until more is done to implement the nation’s power-sharing agreement and to restore human rights.

 

Winding up the first visit by a high-level EU delegation since 2002, de Gucht says that sharp differences remain between Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai over their coalition agreement.

 

De Gucht says Mugabe and Tsvangirai "do not have the same reading of the same document."

The first high-level European Union delegation to visit Zimbabwe in seven years said on Sunday relations with the country were entering a "new phase" but full cooperation hinged on the implementation of a power-sharing deal.

Swedish International Development Minister Gunilla Carlsson also said targeted sanctions against Zimbabwe would not be lifted until human rights abuses ended.

"Now we’re entering a new phase. The political agreement was an important step forward, but much needs to be done. The key to re-engagement is the full implementation of the political agreement," the minister said.

On Saturday, President Robert Mugabe welcomed the delegation with "open arms", a change in tone which may suggest he is more willing to cooperate with Western countries as Zimbabwe seeks billions of dollars in aid to rebuild its ruined economy.

The agreement between Mugabe and his long-time foe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has been beset with problems as their parties accuse each other of stalling the process by not fully implementing the deal, which Zimbabweans hoped would end hardships.

Tsvangirai accuses Mugabe of maintaining a crackdown on his supporters through arrests of some lawmakers and refusing to reverse senior state appointments, including that of the central bank governor and attorney-general.

Mugabe says Tsvangirai’s MDC party has reneged on an agreement to call for an end to sanctions.

The visit by EU Aid and Development Commissioner Karel De Gucht and the Swedish EU presidency is the first since the EU began targeted sanctions in 2002 against members of Mugabe’s government for alleged human rights violations. 

HUMAN RIGHTS

Zimbabwe says it needs $10 billion in foreign reconstruction aid. Western nations are reluctant to release cash without further political and economic reform promised as part of the power-sharing pact, called the Global Political Agreement (GPA).

"The restrictive measures were there because of (human rights) violations. We cannot fully re-engage until we see the global political agreement is being implemented fully. There’s more that needs to be done here," Carlsson told a news conference when asked about the possibility of lifting sanctions.

"We had reasons to raise very serious concerns, for example on media freedom and constitutional reforms. We still have a lot of reports of human rights violations, which are unacceptable."

The EU remains the main overall donor to Zimbabwe, having provided 572 million euros in humanitarian aid to the country since 2002, despite the targeted sanctions.

To date, 203 people and 40 companies linked to the Mugabe government face travel and some financial restrictions within the 27-nation bloc.

Mugabe has long held his Western foes responsible for Zimbabwe’s steep economic decline, saying sanctions were imposed as retaliation for the seizure of white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to blacks.

"He (Mugabe) mentioned the restrictive measures, which he calls economic sanctions but we don’t agree on that characterisation forward in the implementation of the global political agreement," De Gucht told the press conference.

"We are not going to do that unless there is a process going forward in the implementation of the global political agreement."