EC watching Zim ‘closely’

The European Commission recently released its ‘New Agenda for Change’. How will this affect its role in Zimbabwe? In a recent interview, the EU Commissioner for development, AndrisPiebalgs, explained.

EU Commissioner for development, AndrisPiebalgs.
EU Commissioner for development, AndrisPiebalgs.

The ‘Agenda for Change’ first and foremost works alongside government development plans and in agreement with the European Commission’s partner countries which identify where the biggest impact might be achieved.

It may vary from country to country, however, we have identified three sectors thanks to which we can put the ground for sustainable and inclusive growth. These are human development, access to energy and agriculture.

A stomach for sanctions

Would the EU have the stomach to impose sanctions that really hurt in the event that President Robert Mugabe refuses to fully implement the terms agreed to in the GPA and goes on to steal another election?

We are following the situation in Zimbabwe closely. Recently the EU partially lifted sanctions on Zimbabwe to encourage further progress in political reforms but kept restrictions on veteran President Robert Mugabe. This decision proves that there have been some encouraging developments as well as more discouraging events like the non-implementation of the global political agreement.

The government of Zimbabwe is trying its best in a very difficult context. It has achieved economic stabilisation, the level of income population has partially improved, so we should expect positive development in this country.

We try to distinguish between the actors who try to improve the situation and those that don’t and I think the decision of the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, to lift sanctions on Zimbabwe but maintain restrictions on those people who make people’s life more difficult is right and fair.

With all the cautions, I hope the international community and international organisations such as the SADC will do enough in order to guarantee fair, free and credible elections in 2013, and also bring the rule of government shared by the majority of people of Zimbabwe. The elections will be a key moment of truth for the development of the country.

Worst case scenario

If the worst scenario were to take place we will continue to support the poorest Zimbabweans though United Nations agencies or NGOs, but definitely our willingness is to be engaged directly with a government that will be democratically and freely elected.

A few weeks ago the governor of Masvingo Province, who is a member of Mugabe’s party, decided to indefinitely suspend 29 NGOs from conducting further operations in his province.

Is it certain that EU assistance will get to the people and not be misappropriated by government? Will the amount of aid assistance for the people of Zimbabwe increase through non-governmental organisations?

We will remain firm in our belief that in these countries UN agencies and NGOs are the only credible sources of development support. I think that suspending NGOs from conducting operations deprives the poorest people of aid that they badly need and I very much regret such a decision. There is no justification for it as NGOs do a lot to alleviate poverty in the country and it is bound to hurt people right before the elections. I hope that Zimbabweans will draw the right conclusions.

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