Zimbabwe’s relations with the European Union are improving, but there will be no direct funding for the Harare government until political talks with the bloc are concluded, an EU official said.
The EU, one of President Robert Mugabe’s staunchest critics, imposed sanctions on the veteran ruler and his inner circle and suspended direct aid in 2002 over charges of rights abuses and electoral fraud.
Mugabe accuses the EU of punishing him for seizing white-owned farms to resettle landless blacks, Reuters reports.
Mugabe, and long-time foe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, formed a power-sharing government in February in a bid to end a political crisis that followed last year’s disputed elections.
The new government is working to re-engage the EU and the US.
Western donors have demanded broad political and economic reforms before giving direct aid to the government. The donors currently provide only humanitarian assistance.
Dominique Davoux, the EU’s head of economic co-operation and food security in Zimbabwe, told a business conference in Harare that efforts to restore ties were being made.
“Zimbabwe’s international relations are on the mend, with bilateral and multilateral re-engagement efforts taking centre stage, starting with the Prime Minister’s visit to Brussels in June,” Davoux said.
“It’s moving very slowly and we want it speeded up to deal with areas of concern on both sides.”
The talks between Harare and the EU are meant to resolve the dispute over Zimbabwe’s human rights record, political reforms and sanctions slapped on Mugabe’s previous ZANU-PF government, as well as the resumption of aid.
Davoux said any possible financial assistance to the new unity government which says it requires about $10 billion (R76 billion) to rebuild the economy depended on successful negotiations.
“Opportunities for Zimbabwe within the EU-ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) partnership framework are premised on normal relations,” Davoux said.
“However, until the political dialogue concludes favourably on areas of concern to the EU, our current co-operation is limited to direct support to the beneficiary population.”
Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) accuses Mugabe’s ZANU-PF of stalling key reforms demanded by the West but ZANU-PF in turn says the MDC is not doing enough to convince its Western allies to remove sanctions.
Pic: President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe