RELATIONS between Zimbabwe and the European Union may well be on the mend but the bloc will not consider assisting Zimbabwe with direct budgetary support — at least until 2017, EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Phillipe Van Damme has revealed.
Zimbabwe and the EU are expected to sign the National Indicative Programme next week paving way for the bloc to provide 234 million euros (about US$266 million) to support socio-economic programmes in Zimbabwe over the next five years.
This follows the bloc’s decision to scrap Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement on Zimbabwe last year, significantly improving diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe in the process, while also allowing the country to benefit from the 11th European Development Fund which supports development programmes in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific countries.
The fund runs from 2014 to 2020 and in Zimbabwe it will have three focal areas comprising health, rural-based economic development and governance.
Van Damme told the Zimbabwe Independent last week that although Zimbabwe will benefit from the European Development Fund, the bloc would not assist it with direct budgetary support until the country puts in place measures to ensure good corporate governance.
The EU’s decision, he said, would be reviewed in 2017 at the earliest.
Last year then EU head of delegation to Zimbabwe Ambassador Aldo Dell’Ariccia told the Independent that direct budgetary support would only be restored when Zimbabwe puts in place adequate systems to ensure accountability and transparency in the administration of public finances, including its procurement and tendering systems.
“At the moment, the way public funds are managed is not conducive for direct budgetary support. The systems are not in place, but we are happy to provide technical assistance in that regard,” said Dell’Ariccia.
Van Damme said the EU’s decision was binding. In 2002 the EU slapped measures against Zimbabwe under the Cotonou Agreement which suspended the bloc’s direct aid to government.
The measures, the EU 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 map out how the two parties could start co-operation in future. They were then lifted last year.