The European Union says it will not lift sanctions against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe until credible elections are held in the country, though the EU Council has just removed 51 members of Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party from its sanctions list.
The European Union Council met in Brussels on Friday and formally resolved to ease its restrictive measures on Zimbabwe, delisting the 51 ZANU-PF members and 20 related companies while leaving Mr. Mugabe and 112 others under restrictions.
EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe Aldo Dell'Ariccia, told journalists in Harare that the bloc would not lift all sanctions until Zimbabwe holds free and fair elections.
ZANU-PF has been pushing for elections this year but the two co-governing formations of the Movement for Democratic Change say many more democratic reforms need to be implemented before new elections can be called.
The EU Council also lifted travel bans on Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi so they can represent the ZANU-PF side of the government in re-engagement talks between Harare and Brussels.
Dell’Ariccia said it was decided to take some individuals and ZANU-PF related firms off the list was taken because they had had not been linked to recent violations.
Some of those delisted included the late retired general Solomon Mujuru, former Masvingo provincial governor Josiah Hungwe, ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo and Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe Chairman Tafataona Mahoso.
Dell’Ariccia said that in taking some off the list the European Union was extending an olive branch to those who have not embraced reforms.
He praised the crisis-resolution efforts of the Southern African Development Community and its mediator in Zimbabwe, South African President Jacob Zuma.
The EU council noted improvement in Harare but said further reforms in keeping with the 2008 Global Political Agreement are needed for a democratic and peaceful Zimbabwe.
The EU said it was ready to reconsider sanctions at any time in response to concrete progress on the reform agenda.
Responding to Dell’Ariccia’s remarks, ZANU-PF spokesman Gumbo told reporter Blessing Zulu that all Western sanctions must be scrapped unconditionally.
European Parliament Member Geoffrey Van Orden, advocate of a tough position on Zimbabwe, said he was pleased the EU was being flexible.
Political analyst Earnest Mudzengi said the EU lightening of sanctions did not point to any major change in the environment or the election timetable.