HARARE – A delegation of the European Parliament Development Committee arrived in Zimbabwe on Monday as part of the overall EU-Zimbabwe re-engagement.
This is the first delegation from the European Parliament in over 10 years and the visit comes as the 27-nation bloc has just announced wholesale easing of sanctions imposed on the country more than a decade ago over allegations of rights abuses and electoral fraud.
Only 10 officials, including President Robert Mugabe, security chiefs and his inner cabal, remain on the embargo.
Norbert Neuser, German Member of the European Parliament (MEP) of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats group is leading the three-member delegation, composed also of Filip Kaczmarek, a Polish MEP of the European People’s Party group and Judith Sargentini, Dutch MEP of the Greens/European Free Alliance group.
The delegation, which is in Zimbabwe until Friday, will be updated on existing EU development assistance programmes, the development needs of the country and the priorities of the Government of Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe stands to benefit from direct budgetary support from the EU’s European Development Fund which has been suspended since 2002 and the visiting members of Parliament will play a role in determining the aid envelope to the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.
The Western countries have given Zimbabwe $2, 6 billion in transitional development support since 2009.
The EU delegation in Zimbabwe said in a statement visiting members have a particular interest in food security, health, agriculture and sustainable energy.
“The visit is important in view of the programming and preparation for future EU cooperation with Zimbabwe in the framework of the 11th European Development Fund (2014 to 2020),” the EU delegation statement said.
The visiting team is meeting representatives of key ministries for EU development assistance, such as the ministry of Finance, the ministry of Education, Sport, Arts, and Culture, the ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, the ministry of Energy and Power Development, and the ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Development.
The delegation will also meet with the Speaker of the Zimbabwean Parliament Lovemore Moyo and the president of the Senate Ednah Madzongwe, and visit ongoing development assistance programmes.
The EU has been keen to promote Zimbabwe’s unity government since Morgan Tsvangirai agreed to become premier of a power-sharing government with President Mugabe following disputed presidential elections in March 2008.
The EU has continued to send humanitarian aid to the country, which amounts to roughly euro 90 million ($131 million) a year. – Gift Phiri, Political Editor