Zimbabwe/EU talks set to resume

THE ongoing formal political dialogue between Zimbabwe and the European Union, to normalise strained relations between the two, will continue despite the recent extension of sanctions on Harare by Brussels.

The EU extended its embargo against Zimbabwe a fortnight ago, citing alleged human right violations.

Harare opened formal dialogue with Brussels in 2019, which has culminated in a measured thawing of relations.

Another round of talks scheduled for December last year was cancelled as a result of Covid-19 and its attendant restrictions.

Dialogue between the two sides has now been elevated to Ministerial level.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade spokesperson Ms Constance Chemwai told The Sunday Mail that a date for the third round of talks was being finalised.

“The Cotonou Partnership Agreement Article 8 Political Dialogue between Zimbabwe and the European Union (EU) takes place twice a year as agreed between the two sides,” said Ms Chemwai

“The dates for the third session of this dialogue are yet to be finalised. The agreed agenda of the political dialogue at the launch on June 3, 2019 covers a broad range of areas of focus that include investment, trade and economic development, humanitarian assistance, human rights, democracy, good governance and the rule of law, development co-operation and regional, continental and global co-operation.”

Asked whether the recent extension of sanctions will disrupt the dialogue process, she said, “No it will not.”

Responding to questions from The Sunday Mail, EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr Timo Olkkonen, said continuing the dialogue process was essential.

“The EU and Zimbabwe held two formal political dialogues under Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement since 2019.

“The second political dialogue held in November 2019 was held at ministerial level, which was a welcome development in view of establishing a regular and formal engagement. The third meeting of the political dialogue was postponed last December due to the Covid-19 situation, but the EU is ready to have the next talks at the earliest occasion and once the situation allows.

“The meetings allowed for the continuation of discussions on topics that are of common interest and are priorities in EU-Zimbabwe relations: human rights, democratisation, rule of law and good governance; economic developments and reforms, the investment climate and implementation of our free trade agreement, the Economic Partnership Agreement; development cooperation, humanitarian assistance and global and regional partnerships”, Mr Olkkonen said.

The EU, he said, was keen to support Government in undertaking economic and political reforms.

The 28-member bloc imposed sanctions on Harare in 2002 but has been progressively reviewing the embargo in recognition of reforms being undertaken by Government.

Last year, the EU suspended sanctions against three senior Government officials — Vice President Dr Constantino Chiwenga; Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) Commander General Philip Valerio Sibanda; and the late former Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri.

“The EU is willing to engage with and support the government across a wide range of policy fields where we can bring EU co-operation and assistance to bear, especially with regard to governance and capacity building, based on a genuine government commitment,” said Mr Olkkonen.

“The EU is currently planning for its future co-operation with Zimbabwe so the timing would be opportune to discuss these issues.”

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