ZIMBABWE is set to receive about US$300 million in development assistance from the European Union (EU) in 2015 after the bloc lifted Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement which it imposed on Zimbabwe in 2002 in the aftermath of gross violations of human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law by government.
The measures led the EU to suspend direct budgetary and financial aid to government, although humanitarian assistance continued to flow through civil society. 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 restore co-operation in future.
Following the lifting of targeted sanctions, new EU ambassador Philippe Van Damme announced yesterday the assistance would be given in terms of the Partnership Agreement the EU signed with Zimbabwe and 77 other African, Caribbean and Pacific countries in Cotonou (Benin Republic) in 2000 aimed at promoting sustainable development in these countries.
He, however, said full normalisation of relations would be gradual rather than an overnight event.
Development assistance will continue to be channelled into the country through multi-lateral organisations such as the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) and civil society organisations, rather than directly to government ministries until confidence has been sufficiently restored.
“Things will not change overnight,” said Van Damme after being asked whether aid will be channelled directly to government. “We have to build trust and gradually come to a level of complete normalisation of relations with Zimbabwe.”
“Yes we have lifted the appropriate measures but we have to be pragmatic,” said Van Damme, adding, “We have to rebuild trust in the system. We will start by working through institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. We will also be guided by criteria of efficiency, transparency and effectiveness. For example, we already have a winning team in the health fund managed by Unicef and we do not see why we should change a winning team.”
He spoke of the need “to overcome the consequences of that history” of hostile and strained relations.