HARARE – The European Union yesterday announced the lifting of trade sanctions against Zimbabwe that will take effect tomorrow, but kept travel bans against President Mugabe and First Lady Grace Mugabe which the Western bloc said would be reviewed in February next year.
Analysts dismissed the lifting of the trade embargo, saying as long as President Mugabe remained on the sanctions it defeated the spirit of engagement which the bloc was advocating for.
Announcing the decision in Harare yesterday during a press conference, newly accredited EU Head of Mission Mr Philippe Van Damme said the lifting of trade sanctions against Zimbabwe means that the 28-nation bloc would directly engage with Harare on bilateral economic ties.
Ironically the European bloc had all along claimed there were no economic sanctions on Zimbabwe but just travel bans and asset freezes on Zanu-PF leaders and their associates. He said pending arrival of British and Danish trade delegation was a sign of commitment by the Brussels based organisation to normalise relations with Zimbabwe.
Mr Van Damme said EU lifted Article 96 of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement which governed relations between the Western bloc and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, but maintained Article nine until February next year which related to travel bans imposed on First Families.
“I think we have reached an important stage of normalisation of relations with Zimbabwe,” said Mr Van Damme, who was making his first public appearance after he presented his credentials to President Mugabe early this month. “The step we have taken is not the final step, but a very important one. What we need now is to rebuild trust.”
Some of the areas that EU would start dialogue on were on agriculture, support of realignment of laws, health, Zim-Asset and the Staff Monitoring Programme that is being monitored by the International Monetary Fund. Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Chris Mutsvangwa said it was bad manners for EU to continue “stigmatising” President Mugabe whose election victory was endorsed by both Sadc and the African Union, among other regional groupings.
“It is a bad signal at a time when Brussels and even London are talking of re-engagement,” he said. “President Mugabe represents the people of Zimbabwe and everyone recognised the July 31, 2013 election and there is no prospect of a new Government for the next four years or even beyond that is in the foreseeable future. It’s plain bad manners.”
African, Caribbean and Pacific EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly Zimbabwe representative Cde Makhosini Hlongwane said the EU was pinning its hopes on Zanu-PF’s December elective congress where it was anticipating that its puppets in the revolutionary party would take over the reins of power.
“They are prioritising hopes on outcomes of internal Zanu-PF processes, particularly congress with the vain hope that their puppets within Zanu-PF are going to remove President Mugabe and therefore develop a new Zimbabwe- EU architecture which is presumably sympathetic to the EU project,” he said. “EU needs to come to terms, and very quickly so, with the fact that President Mugabe is not going anywhere.”