The first European Union delegation to visit Zimbabwe in seven years ended its two-day visit to Harare, saying meetings with President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai were good. But more needs to be done before the relationship between the European Union and Zimbabwe can be normalized.
An end to human-rights abuses, freedom of the media and full implementation of the of the deal that brought about the unity government, the so-called Global Political Agreement are just some of the benchmarks the European Union needs to see met before a relations are normalized with Harare.
Speaking to the media on the last day of the EU delegation's visit, the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Karel de Gucht said the European Union supports the efforts of the unity government partners to reach an agreement.
"We also think we can come to completion if both sides agree on benchmarks; on a road map, also how to come to on the one hand full completion of the GPA and on the other hand normalization of the relations between Zimbabwe and the European Union. But we are doing this in good spirits," he said.
De Gucht added Mr. Mugabe told the delegation he is committed to the GPA.
The delegation once again insisted the sanctions that President Mugabe says were imposed on Zimbabwe in 2002 for alleged human-rights abuses are nothing more than restrictive measures on the president and ranking members of his party and government. The delegation said the European Union never stopped providing humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe.
Mr. Mugabe, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambabra who leads a breakaway faction of the MDC signed the GPA a year ago. But there have been delays in fully implementing the deal.
Prime Minister Tsvangirai blames Mr. Mugabe for not sticking to the terms of the agreement. The president says Mr. Tsvangirai has not done enough to have the sanctions lifted.
Swedish Development Minister Gunilla Carlsson said the former opposition leader and his party have nothing to do with the imposition of the measures.
"The restrictive measures are decided in the European Union," said Carlsson. "It is not up to the prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, to take them away. That is a European Union responsibility."
Carlsson added the EU delegation was not in Harare to discuss the sanctions, though Mr. Mugabe brought up the issue. But she said the measures are not 'here forever'. She described the visit as the beginning of a new phase, which would hopefully lead to the normalization of relations.
The delegation also met with Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara before leaving Zimbabwe.