The European Union is dispatching a high level delegation to Harare this week, signaling that relations between Zimbabwe and the 27-state EU are continuing to thaw.
But the EU has indicated that sanctions imposed on President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle won’t be lifted until the September 2008 Global Political Agreement underpinning the national unity government in Harare has been fully implemented by all parties.
Swedish International Development Minister Gunilla Carlsson and European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Karel De Gucht were due in Harare on Friday and were expected to remain in the country until Sunday.
The two were in the region Thursday for an EU-South Africa summit accompanying Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who now occupies the EU's rotating presidency.
The delegation is to meet with President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai as well a range of ministers and representatives of civil society organizations.
Mr. Reindfeldt told reporters in Johannesburg that the EU was not ready to heed the call this week by leaders of the Southern African Development Community for Europe, the United States and other Western powers to lift sanctions targeting key individuals.
The Swedish prime minister said it is not the sanctions that are hindering economic recovery and the expansion of donor assistance, but mismanagement and human rights abuses.
International relations expert David Monyae told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the EU visit can be significant if Harare responds properly.
Meanwhile, international advocacy group Human Rights Watch called on Western nations to maintain sanctions until human rights are fully respected in Zimbabwe.
Human Rights Watch Africa Director Georgette Gagnon called the sanctions “a red herring since none of them prevent the country from moving forward." Her statement came in response to the SADC call for sanctions to be lifted.
The SADC leaders contended that the sanctions blocked Zimbabwe’s economic recovery. But Human Rights Watch says government should show commitment to human rights by repealing various repressive laws so sanctions can be lifted.
South African-based human rights lawyer Annah Moyo told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the campaign for the removal of sanctions is ill-advised as the measures only target individuals, not the whole country.
Many people including Mr. Tsvangirai had hoped the SADC leaders would take up the so-called outstanding issues which his party says must be addressed for the Global Political Agreement is be considered fully implemented. But SADC punted on the matter, putting it in the hands of its Zimbabwe troika or working group comprising Mozambique, South Africa and Angola.
Following this setback, Mr. Tsvangirai and his party's national and executive councils were to meet Saturday in Bulawayo to discuss strategy - though he made clear this week in public meetings in Zimbabwe that the party has no intention of scuttling the unity government.'
For perspective on where these developments leave the problematic power-sharing process, reporter Sandra Nyaira of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe turned to human rights activist Dewa Mavhinga and former deputy information minister Bright Matonga.
Mavhinga said there has been progress despite SADC's refusal to call a special summit on Zimbabwe, as Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC formation had requested.