THE European Union (EU) is likely to scrap Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement on Zimbabwe in November this year, unless there is a serious violation of principles of human rights, respect for the rule of law and democratic principles, paving the way for normalisation of diplomatic relations and for the country to receive much-needed direct aid from the EU.
This comes ahead of the crucial EU-Africa summit in Brussels next week on Tuesday and Wednesday.
EU head of delegation to Zimbabwe, Aldo Dell’Ariccia, told The Zimbabwe Independent the scrapping, agreed to during an EU council of ministers in February this year, would allow Zimbabwe to benefit from the 11th European Development Fund which supports development programmes in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific countries.
The development fund will run from 2014 to 2020.
Since 2002, the EU has maintained measures taken against Zimbabwe under the Cotonou Agreement which suspended the EU’s direct aid to government, although humanitarian aid has continued to flow through civil society.
The measures, the bloc said, were in response to gross violations of human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law by government. The measures were however suspended in July 2012 allowing the bloc and Zimbabwe to work at a technical level to see how the two parties could start co-operation in future.
Dell’Ariccia said scrapping of Article 96 would mean the two parties would immediately operationalise the national indicative programme which was agreed by the two parties.
“The national indicative programme will have three focal areas, that is health, rural-based economic development and governance,” said Dell’Ariccia.
He said he was hopeful peace and the rule of law would continue to prevail in Zimbabwe.
Despite suspending direct aid to Zimbabwe, Dell’Ariccia said the EU and its member states had spent more than US$2 billion since 2009 on humanitarian assistance in areas such as education, water and sanitation and governance.
Dell’Ariccia also said he hoped Zimbabwe would take advantage of the EU-African summit in Brussels next week to market the country as a safe tourist and investment destination.
He however said the First lady Grace Mugabe would not attend the summit as it was limited to heads of State and Government as well as people who will be at work. Besides, he said, the First Lady was restricted from travelling to Europe under restrictive measures put in place by the bloc and could therefore not get a visa.
“The summit is for Heads of States and Government, that is clear on the official documents. There are no programmes for spouses. The invitation is only limited to Heads of State and their working teams,” he said.
Dell’Arricia also said the summit was between EU and the African Union, hence countries which were not in the AU could be invited to attend.
There is a furore over the summit as some countries, among them Zimbabwe, have questioned why Egypt was invited to the summit despite being under AU sanctions while Eritrea and the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic — AU members — were not invited.