ZIMBABWE will soon be allowed to sell its goods to the European Union (EU) without paying tariffs and quotas, the clearest indication yet that the relationship between the EU and the southern African nation is thawing.
BY NQABA MATSHAZI
The EU parliament on Thursday granted its consent to the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement, which also includes Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles.
The economic partnership agreement (EPAs) would allow the four countries — Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Mauritius and the Seychelles — to sell coffee, sugar cane and tobacco in the EU without tariffs and quotas.
The deal received token resistance with 97 Members of the EU Parliament (MEPs) voting against it, while 494 approved.
There were 33 abstentions.
But questions have been raised on Zimbabwe’s human rights records, with others saying the country should not be included in the agreement.
“As to Zimbabwe’s human rights record, I agree that the final EPA must include a binding rule on human rights, but at this interim stage we are focusing on economic matter,” EU rapporteur, Daniel Caspary said.
The interim agreement, Caspary said, should improve conditions and foster regional growth in the long run.
Members of the EU Parliament reportedly expressed their concern over human rights violations in Zimbabwe, warning that this could affect the economic agreement’s future.
They called on the EU delegation in Harare to help Zimbabwe improve its human rights records.
Zimbabwe’s checkered human rights record has been a concern for the EU, culminating in the bloc slapping sanctions on President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle.
Zanu PF maintains the sanctions have been economically debilitating and should be removed.
The inclusive government set up a re-engagement committee to engage the EU, but this has so far come to naught.
EPAs are set out to stimulate growth in African Caribbean and Pacific group of countries and help them integrate into the world economy.
This EPA is the first agreement to be implemented, as the four countries were the first to complete all the necessary reforms.
Now the countries and all EU members should ratify the agreement.