Tuesday, July 20, 2010

EU Shifts Goalposts on Zimbabwe Dialogue

EU shifts goalposts on Zim dialogue

By Itai Musengeyi
Zimbabwe Herald

THE European Union will not remove the illegal sanctions it imposed on Zimbabwe despite the progress the inclusive Government has made because it has its own agenda.

According to diplomatic sources close to recent deliberations between Zimbabwe’s re-engagement committee and the EU, the bloc will not move an inch on the embargo.

The sources said this confirmed the long held view that the EU’s embargo was not about democracy or the rule of law as the grouping has argued over the past decade.

"The EU countries have their own agenda not related to what has happened in Zimbabwe, which renders this dialogue a mere public relations exercise and puts the efficacy of further dialogue into question," a source said.

The Zimbabwean delegation to the July 2 talks — led by Minister Elton Mangoma (MDC-T), Minister Patrick Chinamasa (Zanu-PF) and Minister Priscilla Misihai-rabwi-Mushonga (MDC) — travelled to Brussels with two tasks at hand:

l call for the removal of the sanctions; and

l make a follow upon earlier indications by the EU that it will release a total of 120 million euro as development aid.

The ministers were convinced that since their three parties —which make up the inclusive Government — had unanimously called for the removal of the sanctions and given the progress the coalition Government had made in implementing the Global Political Agreement, it was time for the embargo to go.

They even pointed out during their deliberations with the EU that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai had said 95 percent of the GPA had been implemented.

In the meetings, the three ministers wanted to impress on the progress Zimbabwe had made pre- and post-GPA.

"The major objective was there was going to be movement on sanctions first and foremost but the response was it was unlikely that there was going to be a review of sanctions.

"The EU felt there had not been enough progress in spite of the team’s explanations. The EU have their own agenda and until such a time the agenda is fulfilled the EU will not move," the source said.

The Zimbabwean team was to discover that the 120 million euro was not new money after all, but humanitarian aid, which the EU and other Western donors have always made available even before the formation of the inclusive Government.

"The Government of Zimbabwe got the impression that was new money in recognition of the developments in Zimbabwe following the formation of the inclusive Government.

"It also believed this was going to be the beginning of accessing development aid from the European Union Development Fund.

"The EU said all that money (120 million euro) was disbursed to Zimbabwe through the National Authorising Authority, which happens to be the Ministry of Finance via NGOs and UN agencies. So the money was not new money, it was meant for humanitarian assistance instead of development aid or budgetary assistance," the source said.

The manner in which the EU has been handling the dialogue also shows its lack of commitment.

While Zimbabwe was of the belief that the dialogue was to proceed in a two-pronged approach, with the ministers and officials from both sides engaging their counterparts, the EU has downgraded the talks.

In Brussels, the Zimbabwean ministers met the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security, Lady Catherine Ashton.

She told them that the dialogue should now continue in Zimbabwe with the re-engagement committee finding a minister to talk to the EU head of delegation in Harare, Xavier Marchal.

The ministers then sought to know if there was a possibility of meeting EU member countries bilaterally, but were advised to concentrate on the bloc rather than individual countries.

"For the sanctions to be removed, the 27 EU member countries have to agree by consensus, which means say if the Czech which has no relations with Zimbabwe says no, the sanctions remain."

Zimbabwe had suggested that the dialogue could be on two fronts, with the EU as a bloc and with its members individually to enable Harare to convince them of the progress it had made.

The Zimbabwean team then met the French and the Dutch officials to explain their position, but hit a brick wall again.

"The French said progress on the GPA is not measured so much by what you say as the inclusive Government but our own assessment while the Dutch said they were caught unaware on the Zimbabwe issue to warrant removal of sanctions," the source said.

Observers said the outcome of the recent contact between Harare and the EU shows that the latter does not support the inclusive Government, but wants a certain part of that Government (MDC-T) to eventually take over.

Because even after the dialogue had started last year, the EU renewed the sanctions in February while the United States sought to introduce the Zimbabwe Transition to Democracy and Economic Recovery Act in place of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, both sanctions laws to suffocate Harare.

The observers said the EU’s actions and those of the US are the same, the difference being the former acts without talking while the latter makes it open.

"EU is doing it without saying while the US says it does not support the inclusive Government as presently constituted but elements of that Government with view to enhancing their chances of winning should an election be called," one observer noted.

President Mugabe recently told the Zanu-PF Central Committee that Zimbabwe could do without Western aid and depend on its resources like diamonds.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti has also said given that Government has survived this long without donor assistance, the Chiadzwa diamonds meant Zimbabwe would stand on its own.

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