Regional Integration and International Co-operation Minister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga of the MDC-M, who is part of the delegation to meet the EU officials, told the Zimbabwe Independent yesterday that the EU has proposed that the meeting be held next month, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was yet to accept the invitation having only this week complained that the EU was dragging its heels.
Misihairabwi-Mushonga, Economic Planning and Investment Promotion minister Elton Mangoma of MDC-T, and Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa of Zanu PF have confirmed to the EU that they are able to attend the meeting on July 2.
She said: “Yes, the meeting is supposed to be held next month. The EU has now formally communicated with government and has proposed the second of July as the date for the meeting. They now need the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to confirm and do the diplomatic bit. Mangoma, Chinamasa and I have confirmed that we are able to attend the meetings.
“The EU told us that they have been doing their best to organise the meeting and were doing it in good faith.”
The request for the meeting came two days after Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi accused the EU of conducting dialogue in bad faith, insincerity and lack of commitment in re-engaging Zimbabwe to normalise relations and lift sanctions.
Mumbengegwi, who heads the ministerial re-engagement committee, told journalists in Harare this week after meeting the visiting Portuguese Deputy Foreign Affairs minister Antonio Braga that the EU was not serious on dialogue.
“It seems to suggest to us that the EU has never taken this dialogue seriously at all. They are just playing games with the lives of the people of Zimbabwe and I know that in international relations, morality is the first casualty,” he told the journalists.
The dialogue was scheduled to resume on April 21, but was deferred after a flight ban in Europe following a volcanic eruption in Iceland.
In April, the delegation was supposed to meet separately EU Foreign Policy chief, Lady (Cathy) Ashton, director-general for development Stefano Manservisi, and Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs. It is not clear if they are going to meet the same three officials on July 2.
Since April Zimbabwe had been waiting for the EU to suggest a new date for the meeting and Mumbengegwi had written to them expressing concern at the lack of progress.
Other members of Zimbabwe’s re-engagement team are Finance minister Tendai Biti, Industry and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube.
The meeting will be the first after Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai launched the re-engagement dialogue process with the EU last June. The meetings will be held in line with the Cotonou Agreement.
The agreement is a comprehensive partnership arrangement between developing countries and the EU. The European Development Fund (EDF) is the main instrument for providing EU aid for development cooperation in ACP (African/Caribbean/Pacific) states under the agreement.
The meetings are expected to enable Zimbabwe to come up with modalities for bilateral discussions with EU member states and would give the country an opportunity to discuss issues around Zimbabwe’s debt. During the meetings, the ministers will attempt to convince the EU that the government of national unity was working, despite concerns that it has not been able to implement the Global Political Agreement because of disharmony within government.
In February, the EU renewed its sanctions against Zimbabwe for another year, citing lack of progress in implementing the power-sharing agreement.