'Credible poll will normalise Zim/EU relations'

HARARE - Zimbabwe's upcoming watershed polls will be a defining moment for relations between the country and the European Union (EU), a head of the EU delegation has said.

EU ambassador Aldo Dell’Ariccia said the successful holding of credible elections will be a crucial step in the strengthening of Zimbabwe-EU relations.

He said the normalisation of relations was a long road that started with the establishment of the Government of National Unity (GNU).

“Based on that, the European Union decided to launch what I would call the normalisation process,” he said
“And now we expect that the election itself is as peaceful, transparent and credible and that the winning party is empowered; then we can take a great leap and fully normalise relations,” Dell’Ariccia said.

Relations between Zimbabwe and western countries have been sour for over a decade but the past months has seen an improvement in relations with travel restrictions on Zanu PF officials being lifted or suspended.

“The EU considered that the agreement would indeed permit to put the country back on track of a sound political development,” he said.

“And so we declared that we are ready to respond to the progress of the implementation of the GPA and the normalisation of the situation in the country with our re-engagement, in particular for what refers to the restrictive measures on individuals and on the companies which they own or to which they are linked.

“So if you look at the evolution during the last two and half years you really have the image of the normalisation process that has been going on," he said.

Only 10 persons and two companies remain on the restrictive measures out of over 150 people and 10 companies present on the list at the end of 2010.

Dell’Ariccia said the period leading to the elections will be crucial, as there should be an environment suitable for a peaceful election.

“And if indeed we can have elections that are not marred by violence and intimidation, whose preparation can correspond with what should be a normal election, with proper access to media, with freedom of assembly being respected; with proper voters education, with the voters roll that reflects on the population, then the process could be considered credible.

“I would like to specify that these elements I’m mentioning are not a European Union benchmark, these are the criteria that the African Union and the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) consider as the necessary elements for a credible election.”

He said the EU will not gate-crash to observe the election but, if invited, could field an Election Observation Mission.

The EU head of delegation in Zimbabwe said the meeting in London last month between Zimbabwe and “Friends of Zimbabwe” was a positive step by the development partners towards normalisation of relations. - Bridget Mananavire

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