EU wants credible referendum, poll

HARARE - The Zimbabwe government should make concerted efforts to guarantee a credible referendum and election to pave way for total reunion with the European Union (EU) bloc, the top EU envoy said yesterday.

Aldo Dell’Ariccia, the head of EU Delegation, was speaking in a Human Rights Day address commemorated under the theme ‘‘Inclusion and the right to participate in public life’’.

Though Ariccia applauded parties to the Global Political Agreement for working towards fulfilling the dictates of the pact, he however, said unrestricted reengagement is only possible if Zimbabwe fulfills its commitments and allow democracy to prevail.

“The steps taken since the formation of the Government of National Unity to improve the freedom and prosperity of Zimbabwean people are encouraging. The decision to suspend the EU appropriate measures in July this year represented a major shift in the EU approach and we are keen to move further towards normalised relations,” said Ariccia.

The EU bloc this year dropped dozens of individuals and companies from its sanctions regime.

“In this regard, we look to the Government of National Unity to make every effort to conclude the constitutional process, and to take the necessary steps in the preparation for credible and peaceful elections,” he said.

Notable progress has been made towards the writing of a new constitution.

Ariccia called on government to prioritise trade and investment partnerships to grow Zimbabwe’s economy.

“With the ratification of the interim economic partnership agreement in May this year, Zimbabwean businesses enjoy tax and quota free trade with Europe, and we are working to attract attention of more business in Europe,” he said.

EU high representative Catherine Ashton said this year’s theme blends well with the prevalence of transitional governments worldwide. She commended countries such as Tunisia, Libya, Sierra Leone and Egypt for organising record breaking democratic elections.

Burma and Somalia were applauded for allowing crucial political reforms to take place.

Ashton however, said her organisation was aware of renewed efforts by governments to end the watchdog dog role of non-governmental organisations — “especially those but not exclusively those that receive external funding.”

“Yet much needs to be done to support those who risk their lives in support of the fundamental values they believe in and in the hope of a better future for themselves and future generations. The EU is committed to supporting the vital work of civil society,” she said.

The bloc has established the European Endowment Fund for Democracy as an expression of commitment to support democracy. - Wendy Muperi

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