The European Union announced yesterday (16 February) that it would resume development aid to Zimbabwe by providing the initial package of €237 million to support the country’s agriculture and health sector. It is the first direct funding provided by the EU after more than a decade. “We have made an important step in our cooperation with Zimbabwe,” EU ambassador Philippe Van Damme commented on the sidelines of a ceremony that started the new aid program.
Mutual ties between Brussels and Harare were very difficult since the victory of President Robert Mugabe in the 2002 elections. Zimbabwe’s 2002 presidential election was the closest presidential poll to date. It was contested by the incumbent Robert Mugabe and his major opponent Morgan Tsvangirai. Although Mr Mugabe won with 56.2 percent of the vote, the conduct of the election was condemned by the international community. Following the election, the EU imposed sanctions on Robert Mugabe and his closest aides. In recent years, Brussels has relaxed some measures including the travel ban on senior politicians. Nevertheless, Mr Mugabe and his wife Grace remain targeted by EU sanctions.
EU’s new aid program aims to cover a number of development projects for the next six years. “We look forward to work in all the strategic and important areas covered by this national … program, with the aim to foster the political and economic reforms Zimbabwe is undertaking,” the EU diplomat said. Although Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa embraced the aid package, he called for “unconditional lifting of sanctions against our head of state and first lady”. “Zimbabwe Incorporated has a chief executive officer and as long as the chief executive remains under sanctions our relations remain poisoned and unproductive,” Mr Chinamasa added. Brussels said that Mr Mugabe might be given the right to enter the EU under very specific circumstances and only in his capacity as the chairman of the African Union.