Mugabe free to attend summit — EU envoy

THE European Union (EU) has cleared Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to attend the meeting of African Union and EU leaders, but says the decision does not alter the fact that he is on targeted sanctions, together with some of his Zanu PF cronies.

Herbert Moyo

The two-day AU-EU Summit is scheduled for Brussels in Belgium on April 2-3 and will explore ways of “strengthening political partnership and enhanced co-operation at all levels”.

On Sunday, the public media quoted Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi saying the EU did not invite Mugabe to the summit, “ostensibly as an expression of its long-standing impasse with the country (Zimbabwe)”.

“(It is) absolute madness for the bloc to exclude the President, especially after his election as AU First Deputy Chairperson,” Mumbengegwi said.

“That is the decision that was taken at the AU that all heads of state must be invited without exception if the summit is going to take place. And so, faced with this situation, I do not think the EU has any option. One never ceases to marvel why the EU always wants to come up with self-imposed humiliation.”

However, EU ambassador Aldo Dell’Ariccia told the Zimbabwe Independent Mugabe had in fact been invited along with other African leaders.
Explaining the EU decision to allow Mugabe to attend, Dell’Ariccia said international laws make exceptions for leaders who are on what it calls targeted measures to attend summits and other international fora and as such there was no contradiction with the invitation to Mugabe to attend.

“President Mugabe is invited to the summit and I hope he will attend along with all the other leaders that have been invited,” Dell’Ariccia said.

“There are international laws that have to be respected and these make exceptions for heads of state that are on targeted measures to be allowed to attend summits and other functions as a result. A good example is the Vatican’s agreement with the Italian government that allows leaders to attend functions.”

Dell’Ariccia said Mugabe’s attendance did not in any way signal a softening of the EU position on targeted measures imposed on Zimbabwe, nor did it suggest the measures have been ineffective.

He said consultations about the measures were still going on and a decision will only be taken at an EU meeting in Brussels on February 20. Mugabe was last week appointed deputy chair of the AU and holds a similar position in Sadc.