The 5th of June 2019 will go down in Zimbabwean history as a profound moment when a special occasion took place.The Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe and the European Union (EU) launched the formal political dialogue process in accordance with Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement (2000).
The Cotonou Agreement governs relations between the African, Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the EU.
This was a momentous occasion as it was the first formal dialogue between EU and Zimbabwe in more than 15 years.
Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized the political dialogue which was attended by the EU Head of Delelegation to Zimbabwe and other officials from the ministries of Finance and Economic Development, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement
EU head of delegation to Zimbabwe Timo Olkkonen said he hoped that formal political dialogue would from now on become a fundamental part of the relations between the two partners.
“This should provide a useful platform to exchange views on topics that are of common interest and identify areas where we can deepen our relationship,” he said.
“It also provides a forum to a frank exchange of views on issues we might not agree upon and foster mutual understanding. Our commitment is to a relationship that we are building together, as partners,” he said.
In his remarks, Ambassador Manzou who is co-chairing the dialogue said the launch was a result of three years of informal dialogue between the two parties.
“This event that brings us together marks another milestone in the Government’s re-engagement efforts and indeed in the strengthening of relations between Zimbabwe and the EU,” he said.
“As you are all aware re-engagement, particularly this one with the EU is one of the foreign policy priorities of the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe. Looking back at the informal meetings we have had this year and the year before I am convinced that we have laid the ground work for a frank constructive engagement on all issues aimed at strengthening our relations.”he added.
The EU Head of Delegation was supported by EU Ambassadors and Heads of Mission accredited to Zimbabwe from Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.This is a huge boost as this support means a lot to Zimbabwe’s international engagement efforts that are being preached by the Second Republic.
Discussions focused on areas of interest to Zimbabwe and the EU, investment, trade and economic development; climate change and humanitarian assistance; human rights, democracy, good governance and the rule of law; development cooperation; and regional and international cooperation.
The relations between Zimbabwe and the European Union were launched in 1982. In February 2002,after the violent and chaotic Land Reform Programme and the rise of Movement for Democratic Change which has been a serious threat to the government,a frosty relationship was birthed.
The Council of the European Union decided to impose restrictive measures against individuals and companies that were considered responsible for human rights violations in the country. The measures – including a travel ban, an asset freeze and arms embargo were gradually removed over the years after the adoption of the new Constitution was adopted.
Over the years,the EU has maintained so-called ‘appropriate measures’ in place between 2002 and 2014. These consisted of the suspension of all direct development cooperation with the Government and its reorientation as direct support of the population in the social sectors, democratization, respect for human rights and the rule of law, implemented through international agencies or civil society organizations.
However, the EU never imposed what can be described as ‘trade sanctions’ on Zimbabwe. The country signed an Economic Partnership (EPA) in 2009, which was ratified and entered into force in May 2012. After the period of hyper-inflation in 2008, trade relations between the EU and Zimbabwe picked up again.