Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter
The second session of the Zimbabwe-European Union (EU) dialogue was held yesterday, with the bloc pledging to consider increased financial assistance to Zimbabwe next year in light of reforms being implemented by the Government.
The meeting discussed the illegal sanctions that have been imposed on the country where the EU was implored to remove them completely.
Yesterday’s meeting was a culmination of the first formal dialogue meeting that was held at officials’ level in June.
EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe Ambassador Timo Olkkonen said the bloc was willing to discuss more financial aid to the country next year.
“Zimbabwe has an important role to play in the negotiations between the EU and the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) countries on the successor agreement of the Cotonou Agreement,” he said.
“In the coming year, we will also discuss the EU’s future financial engagement with Zimbabwe against the backdrop of the general situation in the country.”
The EU cut direct assistance to the Government when it imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2002.
It has since relaxed its position from 2015 when it resumed providing development aid, mainly through development partners.
During yesterday’s meeting, Ambassador Olkkonen said they had provided US$320 million in humanitarian and development assistance to Zimbabwe.
He said Zimbabwe had a critical role to play in the negotiations for the renewal of the EU-African, Caribbean and Pacific countries agreement set for next year.
He said there were ongoing negotiations to conclude a comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the Eastern and Southern African countries.
Further, the EU and Zimbabwe, together with four Eastern and Southern African partners — Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles — agreed to launch negotiations to extend the scope of EPA beyond the trade in goods towards a more comprehensive partnership covering both trade and related areas such as investment and sustainable development.
“Both reforms could allow for increased investment and opportunities,” said Ambassador Olkkonen.
He had earlier in his remarks said dialogue was now central to Zimbabwe and EU relations.
“The formal dialogue is now an integral part of the relations between the EU and the Republic of Zimbabwe in the sense of Article 8 of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement and the dialogue provides a platform to exchange views on topics that are of common interest and identify areas where we can deepen our relationship, but equally discuss issues we might not agree upon and foster mutual understanding,” he said.
“The EU wishes to support Zimbabwe’s political and economic reform agenda. Urgent political and economic reforms, including the fight against corruption are indeed necessary for the benefit of Zimbabwean people.
“These reforms can pave the way for a further strengthening of relations between Zimbabwe and the EU based on shared values, the respect of human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals agenda.”
In his remarks after the meeting, Acting Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister July Moyo said: “This was the first ministerial meeting that we have held with the EU and we discussed issues that have to do with our relations in many areas and this type of dialogue will augur well as we move forward.
“We have urged the EU that they can assist us by removing the sanctions or talking to other people who continue to have sanctions against us and they indicated that they have removed most of the sanctions they have against us.
“They have demanded that we share with them the type of effects of the sanctions that we are talking about and we are willing to share with them like we have done with other Sadc countries.”
Earlier, Minister Moyo had commended the commencement of dialogue between the two parties.
“For Zimbabwe, the elevation of the dialogue to ministerial level demonstrates the Government’s commitment to strengthen cooperation between Zimbabwe and the EU and the progress that the Government is making in its engagement and re-engagement agenda,” said Minister Moyo.
The agenda for yesterday’s talks included issues around economic development, trade and investment, human rights and democratisation, rule of law and good governance, development cooperation, climate change and humanitarian impact and global and regional cooperation.
Zimbabwe’s delegation included Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister David Musabayana, his Finance and Economic Development counterpart Clemence Chiduwa and several permanent secretaries and diplomats.
The EU delegation included Ambassador Olkkonen and 10 ambassadors from Romania, Finland, France, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Greece and Italy.