Mugabe's fury no problem to the EU

HARARE - President Robert  Mugabe’s failure to attend the Africa-Europe summit in remonstration with the decision to deny his wife (Grace Mugabe) a visa, has no impact on the relationship between Zimbabwe and the European Union (EU) which this week said it seeks to do more to help the southern African state put its economic and political relations with others, back on track.

EU ambassador to Zimbabwe, Aldo Dell’Ariccia speaks to Guthrie Munyuki and below are excerpts of the interview.

Q: How important was President Robert Mugabe and Zimbabwe’s presence at the Africa-European Union Summit?

A: The recently held 4th EU-Africa Summit was attended by 61 heads of State (40 from Africa and 21 from Europe) and representatives of 21 more States.

The summit represented the highest level of political dialogue between the European Union and the African continent.

In this respect, the presence of President Mugabe, in his capacity as Head of State and Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe, was as important as the presence of all the other Heads of State.

Q: What was the impact of his boycott to the Zimbabwe-EU re-engagement efforts?

A: The invitation from the European Union to President Mugabe to attend the 4th EU-Africa Summit and the exceptional measures adopted to ensure an exemption of the visa ban for the President, demonstrate the willingness of the EU to maintain the engagement in a dialogue with Zimbabwe at the highest level.

The EU has not changed its position regarding its desire for engagement with Zimbabwe and we look forward to continuing with our efforts; but of course you need two parties, to dialogue.

Q: How much are you prepared to go in your efforts to help unlock investment opportunities and technical support to Zimbabwe in light of Mugabe’s boycott?

A: President Mugabe’s decision not to attend the EU-Africa Summit does not affect the commitment of the EU to support the aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe in achieving a prosperous, peaceful and democratic country.

The EU also welcomed the presence of an important delegation of Zimbabwean business people at the EU-Africa Business Forum that took place just before the summit.

Their presence has been important in terms of discussing potential European investment opportunities in Zimbabwe.

Q: To what extent have you been involved with the Zimbabwe business community which toured Europe in January and also attended the Brussels Business Forum?

A: The EU Delegation in Harare as well as the Embassies concerned (UK, France and Germany) have been providing support to the preparation of the visit to Europe and have facilitated contacts with different important stakeholders both in the public and the private sectors, in Brussels and the other capitals visited.

At present, together with other EU Member States’ Embassies in Harare,  we are also facilitating meetings with European Businesses and Chambers of Commerce based in South Africa interested in making business with Zimbabwe. There has been a first visit at the beginning of this month and we are planning a second one in May.

Q: In financial terms how much is or was Zimbabwe expected to receive from the European investors?

A: This is an on-going process, started very recently, and it is not possible at this stage to assess how successful it will be or to quantify the success in terms of new investments.

Q: How much are the EU private investors prepared to invest in Zimbabwe and what is the likely outcome in the short to medium term?

A: This is a question that should be addressed to private investors.

Q: As the EU are you satisfied with progress made by Zimbabwe in addressing areas of your concerns which were tied to re-engagement?

A: Since 2011, the EU has been responding with significant positive decisions, to the progress achieved in Zimbabwe.

These decisions are referred in particular to the restrictive measures adopted by the EU Council on individuals and companies in Zimbabwe.

The EU, however, observes that further action is necessary to align the national legislation to the new Constitution voted by the people of Zimbabwe; there is also the need to correct the irregularities observed by the African regional Election Observation Missions (Sadc’s and AU’s) by enforcing their recommendations.

Q: Recently, you were quoted as having demanded political reforms. What reforms are these and why raise them now when you had initially said you were happy with progress?

A: The EU does not demand political reforms. We encourage and, when requested, we support processes that permit to progress towards a prosperous, peaceful and democratic society.

We respond to any positive progress, as I said before.

However, we also observe that more needs to be done in ensuring the proper environment for this progress.

In this respect we consider that a proper alignment of the national legislation to the Constitution and a clearer definition of the legal context, for instance in terms of the indigenisation policy, can help creating the positive environment that in turn will permit to attract the foreign direct investment which is so necessary for the economic recovery and development of Zimbabwe.

Q: What is your assessment of the political and socio-economic situation in post July 31 elections?

A: There are mixed signals. In the economy we observe that there are some encouraging elements like what appears to be a good agricultural year and the good sales of diamonds in international markets.

On the other hand we note also that hundreds of companies are closing down, with the consequent impact on employment and poverty.

In political terms it seems that the recent period is characterised by inter-party challenges and divisions.

Q: How much are you prepared to invest in mitigating the situation?

A: The EU is at present working with the Government of Zimbabwe to establish the amounts that will be devoted to the commonly identified areas of priority for our cooperation: health; rural-based economic development, with a special focus on nutrition and food security; and governance.

If by the 1st of November this year there has not been any deterioration of the situation of human rights and governance in the country, the European Council is likely to decide the lifting of the measures that do not permit to have direct cooperation with the government, paving the way to this further step in the engagement.


Comments (1)

After reading this article, I'd like to thank our dear President for saving our country thousands of dollars by not attending the EU-Africa summit. At the end of the day, it looks like we're still going to benefit.

Dr Know - 29 April 2014

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