Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter—
THE European Union’s contempt of the African Union was further exposed yesterday after it emerged the bloc barred Eritrea from attending the forthcoming EU-Africa Summit, while Egypt was invited despite it being under AU sanctions following the removal of a legitimately elected President Mohamed Morsi, last year.
Mr Morsi was overthrown in a military-backed uprising in July last year.
Eritrea is a full member of the AU and has not been invited to the Summit just like the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, which is also a part of the continental body but has the majority of its land under Moroccan rule.
The EU’s duplicity was exposed by Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary, Ambassador Joey Bimha, when he appeared before the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs yesterday.
“The issue of the EU-Africa Summit was first discussed within sadc and before this summit the AU had taken a position that the EU cannot cherry-pick who was going to attend,” he said.
“The issue went to the AU Heads of State meeting in Addis Ababa and they endorsed that decision that it’s all of Africa and all of Europe that would attend the meeting.”
Ambassador Bimha said initially the EU had only sent an invitation to Zimbabwe but later sent a personal invitation to President Mugabe following pressure from the AU.
“So when the President did make up his delegation, we submitted the list to the EU and we then discovered that the First Lady had not been given a visa.
“We then brought the issue both to sadc and the AU that is when we noticed that the EU had not invited Eritrea and Sudan. Egypt, which is under AU sanctions had been invited,” he said.
“So they have discussed these issues together with the non-invitation of the First Lady and the (AU’s) committee of Permanent Representatives met and mandated their team in Brussels that if the EU doesn’t respect the decision made by the AU Heads of State then the meeting be postponed.”
Ambassador Bimha said it was President Mugabe’s prerogative to determine the composition of his delegation irrespective of the role the individuals would play at the summit.
The AU’s team was yesterday expected to meet their counterparts from Europe to discuss the way forward.
Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Portfolio Committee, Cde Enock Porusingazi (Chipinge South), condemned the EU’s actions.
“The Committee on Foreign Affairs condemns in the strongest terms the inconsistencies on the part the EU and recommends to the executive that unless the First Lady is issued with a visa the meeting should be postponed or they should not be part of the summit.
“They should not dictate who should be in the President’s delegation. Zimbabwe is a sovereign country and has leadership which is internationally recognised including the First Lady so she has a right to accompany the President.
EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe on Monday said the bloc had not invited the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic because it is not fully recognised internationally, while Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir had been barred because of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant issued against him.
At its 22nd Ordinary Session of the General Assembly early this year, the AU threatened to boycott the EU-Africa Summit if President Mugabe was not invited.