EU team jets in

HARARE - A top-level European Union (EU) delegation jetted into Zimbabwe yesterday for crucial talks to restore financial aid and cooperation with the southern African state.

The visit by EU delegation is the second high-level visit by an EU team in 10 years since the 27-nation bloc began targeted sanctions in 2002 against members of President Robert Mugabe’s regime for human rights violations.

The visit is part of a political dialogue initiated in 2009 under power sharing Global Political Agreement provisions to restore ties with Western countries, and opened with a high-level visit to Zimbabwe in 2009 by EU aid and development commissioner Karel De Gucht and members of the Swedish EU presidency.

Gucht and his delegation met with all Principals in the inclusive government.

It was not immediately clear yesterday if the technical team from the EU headquarters in Brussels that jetted in yesterday will hold talks with Mugabe or Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

But the mission follows a visit to Brussels in May by a delegation of Zimbabwean ministers Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, Elton Mangoma and Patrick Chinamasa who met EU foreign chief Catherine Ashton for talks to unlock billions of dollars in aid and foreign investment, and lift sanctions.

The EU delegation in Harare said the top-level team was in Zimbabwe to support the preparation of the EU cooperation programme with the Zimbabwe government for the next financing period running from 2014-2020, under the 11th European Development Fund.

“The EU Council decision in July to suspend the measures restricting development cooperation was a significant event in the process towards normalised relations between the EU and Zimbabwe,” ambassador Aldo Dell’Ariccia, the head of the EU delegation to Zimbabwe, said. “It represents a major shift in approach, enabling the EU to develop assistance programmes in direct cooperation with the government."
 
Following the EU’s decision to suspend sanctions in July, the EU delegation has been working with the Zimbabwe government to develop a Country Strategy Paper for the next cycle of EU development aid for Zimbabwe.

Since the establishment of the coalition government in February 2009, the EU and its member states have provided $1 billion in humanitarian assistance with emphasis on supporting the provision of social services and food security, reinforcing democratic institutions, and fostering economic recovery.

Zimbabwe says it needs $10 billion to reconstruct an economy devastated by a decade of economic meltdown, but Western nations have withheld major funding holding out for more political and economic reforms from the coalition government.

The EU remains one of the major donors to Zimbabwe, pumping over a billion dollars in humanitarian aid to the country since 2002, despite the targeted sanctions. -
Gift Phiri

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