THE European Union and Zimbabwe yesterday launched a new era in relations with their first official talks in seven years, with the union vowing to fully restore ties once â€œsticking pointsâ€ are overcome.
â€œTodayâ€™s (yesterdayâ€™s) meeting lays the foundation for a renewed relationship between the European Union and Zimbabwe,â€ EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Louis Michel told reporters after talks with Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. â€œYour new government offers a unique political opportunity to see Zimbabwe re-engage with the international donor community. But in order to kick-start this re-engagement we need clear progress on certain sticking points.â€
Apart from a resumption of national political dialogue, the EU presidency called for an end to politically-motivated violence and for the security services to come under government control.
It also demanded that the rule of law be strengthened and media freedoms improved, as well as more transparency in the financial system and reforms to the central bank.
Tsvangirai and his rival President Robert Mugabe in February formed a power-sharing government tasked with steering Zimbabwe back to stability after disputed elections last year plunged the country into crisis.
With the shattered economy just turning a corner, Tsvangirai set off on an international tour looking for assistance to help Zimbabwe emerge from years of chaos, which has seen rampant inflation and forced many Zimbabweans to flee the country.
His welcome abroad has contrasted with the chill towards Mugabe.
Both the EU and the United States maintain a travel ban and asset freeze on Mugabe, his wife and inner circle in protest at controversial elections and alleged human rights abuses by his government.
â€œThe moment the political process begins to move, we would like to recuperate fully our relation with your country,â€ EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said, after the first official EU-Zimbabwe talks since 2002.
Tsvangirai, who has won pledges of humanitarian aid on his trip but not the substantial development assistance he seeks to push the economy forward, said he was satisfied with the EUâ€™s commitment.
â€œI am actually encouraged by the level of positive support and indicators that have been given to us,â€ he said. â€œWhat is important upfront is to establish long-term relationships. Financial support will be essential. There is no doubt that Zimbabwe is coming out of a trough and that during this transition we need that
support. So Iâ€™m not disappointed, the commitments are there.â€ â€” AFP.