Mr President, Zimbabwe has a unique opportunity for change. For the first time since independence, a transition of power has begun. We still do not know where this transition will end. Europeans would like, first and foremost, to accompany the people of Zimbabwe on the path of political and economic reform. We want to sustain their hope that real change is possible and help them realise their aspiration to democracy and social justice.
This is our offer to the country: we are ready to intensify our cooperation and be with you in this moment of your history. It will be up to the people of Zimbabwe to decide the new course of the country. Yet I believe it is already quite clear what kind of change the people of Zimbabwe are asking for. Zimbabwe is a country of talented people with good education. They are asking for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. They are asking for an opportunity to prove their talents and put the country’s economy back on track.
The country needs structural change that will require strong popular backing. Reconciliation and an inclusive dialogue are essential, and they are possible. They will require, first and foremost, respect for the constitutional order, the rule of law and the fundamental rights of all citizens. We then hope that the new authorities will organise inclusive, transparent and credible elections later this year. A peaceful electoral campaign and credible elections can set the country on track towards positive change. It is precisely for this reason that we have already started to assist the Zimbabwe Election Commission in establishing a credible electoral role through biometric voter registration. We are also supporting the local media with training on how to cover elections, and also inter-party dialogue and civic and voter education, and this support could be enhanced. I would also support the idea of an electoral observation mission by the European Union, provided that the required conditions are fulfilled and that we receive an invitation from the Government of the country.
The economic situation also needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. We count on the Government to reengage quickly and substantively with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. On our side, we will continue to work very closely with international financial institutions towards a package of measures to stabilise the economy and guarantee basic social services.
The people of Zimbabwe have the opportunity to close a difficult chapter in their history and start anew. It is a delicate and decisive moment for the country. All those who are working for progress in Zimbabwe can count on us in strong cooperation with the United Nations, the African Union and the Southern African Development Community. It is now up to the new authorities to make the first move. A first and encouraging discussion took place in Addis Ababa last week between the President and Commissioner Mimica. Our next steps will depend entirely on the new Government’s actions and its commitment to change.
We see an entire people hoping for progress and for true democracy. The aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe are our own aspirations and we want to make sure that this opportunity is not wasted and that the mistakes of the past do not happen again. But if Zimbabweans embraces the path of change, they can count on the European Union to be with them every step of the way.