EU ready to work with Mugabe as Zimbabwe's president

Head of delegation of the EU in Zimbabwe Xavier Marchal said on Thursday that his bloc was ready to work with Zimbabwe's inclusive government with Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, adding that there was no regime change agenda as alleged.

Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party have constantly accused Britain and her allies in the EU and the United States of harbouring a regime change agenda in Zimbabwe, meant to replace him with their "stooges".

Opening a seminar on Economic Partnership Agreements between the EU and ESA (Eastern and Southern Africa) in Harare, Marchal said the EU had in 2002 only applied a restricted policy towards Zimbabwe, which specifically excluded trade relations.

"There is no such thing as a regime change agenda. Rather, there is a readiness from the EU to reengage with an inclusive government with Robert Mugabe as President and Morgan Tsvangirai as Prime Minister, on the basis of an agreed methodology," he said.

His remarks came as Mugabe’s party entered the second day of its national congress, held once every five years, and which charts the way for the party in terms of policy direction and relations with the international community. Delegations from countries and organizations sympathetic to its cause will attend the congress’ official opening on Friday and deliver solidarity messages.

As has become the norm, Mugabe will use the occasion to criticize the West, including the EU, of imposing an economic blockage on Zimbabwe. The issue of sanctions has also remained a sticky one in Zimbabwe’s Global Political Agreement, which led to the formation of the inclusive government.

Mugabe wants Tsvangirai and his larger MDC faction to lobby for the removal of sanctions, arguing that they had played a part in their imposition. Arthur Mutambara of the smaller MDC faction is deputy prime minister in the inclusive government.

Marchal admitted that relations between his organization and Zimbabwe soured in 2002, with his bloc restricting assistance to the African country following disagreements on governance issues.

"The EU and Zimbabwe have enjoyed a fruitful relationship from 1981 until 2002. In 2002, the EU partially suspended its government to government co-operation under the European Development Fund. This was a consequence of major disagreements over essential elements of the Cotonou Agreement ( Human Rights, Democratic principles, and the rule of law). The EU also adopted restrictive measures within the Common Foreign and Security Policy: prohibition of arms supply, travel ban and the freezing of assets against a number of persons or entities.

"In essence, partial suspension of co-operation translates as follows: no budget support, suspension of projects except those indirect support to the population, humanitarian assistance not affected, regional projects assessed on a case to case basis, trade not affected."

While these measures were imposed on Zimbabwe, the EU had between 2002 and 2009 committed more than 700 million Euros in Zimbabwe, which was not limited to emergency, and is not implemented only through non-governmental organizations, and was also channeled towards effective cooperation at technical level with the Government.

"The EU has led the donor community towards food security as a better alternative to food aid. It is providing this year 25 percent of fertilizers needed by small farmers. It has initiated a retention allowance scheme for health workers nationwide. It has continued to support basic education. It has made in recent years significant proposals to engage with the government on a number of issues in particular in relation to the land issue, the mother of all difficulties," he said.

Marchal said prospects for better relations between the EU and Zimbabwe were now high, emanating from the reality of the GPA.

"The EU backed the GPA, and confirmed its desire to normalize its relationship with Zimbabwe. The new Dispensation of Zimbabwe asked for a dialogue with the EU aimed at normalizing EU-Zimbabwe relations.

Tsvangirai led a team comprising all the three parties in the inclusive government to Brussels in June, where dialogue for normalization of relations was formally launched with an EU ministerial troika.

As a way forward, methodology of re-engagement process was agreed, in which Zimbabwe had to demonstrate GPA implementation through a road map, while the EU responded by its own road map.

Marchal added that trade relations were not the subject of restrictions from the EU, which continued to be a major trading partner of Zimbabwe.

"Zimbabwe has benefited from preferences under the ACP-EU Cotonou Partnership Agreement. She can meet the existing beef export quota, and if she has not met it, it is due to foot and mouth disease, not sanctions. As a Sugar Protocol Country she is significantly benefiting from financial support for an adaptation strategy of the sugar industry," he said.