Monday, March 29, 2010

EU-Zim Dialogue Set to Resume

25 March 2010, The Herald

Dialogue between Zimbabwe and the European Union to explore ways of normalising relations between the two is set to resume next week on the backdrop of the extension for another year of illegal sanctions on the country.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai disclosed this to dignitaries at a signing ceremony of a US$10,5 million grant extended to the education sector by the European Commission yesterday.

He said Zimbabwe was ready to re-engage the EU.

"Next week we will put in place a mission designed to further normalise relations between Europe and Zimbabwe," he said.

The dialogue between the two parties had stalled in past months despite Zimbabwe's efforts to re-engage the bloc.

The situation was compounded by extension of the sanctions, which the majority of Zimbabweans and the progressive world agree are scuttling all efforts to turn around the economy.

An inter-ministerial committee chaired by Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi represents Zimbabwe. Other representatives are ministers Patrick Chinamasa (Justice), Tendai Biti (Finance), Elton Mangoma (Economic Planning), Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga (Regional Integration), and Welshman Ncube (Industry).

PM Tsvangirai yesterday said: "I don't think the EU will set any conditions because they have agreed to have dialogue.

"Yes, the EU has its own benchmarks for dialogue and we also have our own benchmarks and the starting point is that they have to appreciate the road we have travelled and that we have made progress as a Government to address the challenges facing our people."

Last year, some countries denied members of the re-engagement committee visas to enter the EU, an incident that got the dialogue off to a bad start.

The affected ministers are from Zanu-PF.

Minister Chinamasa was also detained without explanation for several hours at Frankfurt International Airport in what was seen as a base attempt to ensure he arrived late for a round of talks in Brussels, Belgium.

Recently, it emerged that the bloc had refused to allow Zimbabwe's re-engagement team to visit various EU capitals as part of the dialogue.

It is understood that the compromise that was reached was that all meetings would take place in Brussels, the seat of the EU.

A few weeks ago, President Mugabe said it was his wish that PM Tsvangirai would take the leading role in the anti-sanctions agenda since the West was more sympathetic to him.

It was not clear yesterday if PM Tsvangirai would establish a new team to lobby for an end to the sanctions.

Sadc, the African Union, the Pan African Parliament, Comesa and the Non-Aligned Movement -- among diverse other groupings -- have all castigated the continued imposition of the illegal sanctions.

Turning to the donation, PM Tsvangirai yesterday said it represented a significant step towards normalisation of relations between Zimbabwe and the EU.

He said the international community should support teachers since they provided an essential service to the nation.

PM Tsvangirai criticised schools that were demanding incentives from parents over and above salaries they were getting from Government.

"If Government cannot pay teachers, how can we expect parents to be able to do this?

"The issue of incentives is really unacceptable and Government is committed to ensure that people are properly remunerated.

"We are currently facing serious financial cash inflows," said PM Tsvangirai.

EC country representative Ambassador Xavier Marchal said they supported the implementation of the GPA and the US$10,5 million was recognition of the inclusive Government's progress.

Education Minister David Coltart said: "We hope these funds will go a long way in addressing challenges that we are facing in the education sector and also improve the quality of education."