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EU Suspends Restrictive Zimbabwe Measures

FILE: Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe stands with his wife Grace, as they pose for a photo at State House in Harare, Oct, 28, 2014.

The European Union (EU) has lifted restrictive measures against Zimbabwe, a move which will see the 28 member bloc starting to give aid directly to the Harare government.

The EU had suspended bilateral co-operation with the Zimbabwe government and had been channeling all humanitarian support through no-governmental organizations.

European Union ambassador to Zimbabwe Philippe Damme told VOA Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the European Union Council has confirmed that "appropriate measures will indeed be lifted this weekend."

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Van Damme said beginning 2015 until 2020, the EU will inject $300 million in development aid targeting health, agriculture and governance.

But the 28-member block has maintained targeted sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace.

The restrictive measures, imposed following the 2002 presidential election, included the suspension of budgetary support to Harare and other projects.

The EU, in imposing the sanctions, said Harare was violating human rights and had rigged the 2002 presidential election in favour of Mr. Mugabe.

Under the Cotonou Agreement’s Article 96, the EU decided to cease direct cooperation with Zimbabwe as part of its measures to ensure the country adhered to essential elements spelt out in the 2000 protocol.

But human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga said the EU must have waited for Harare to introduce democratic reforms before easing the restrictive measures.

However, Van Damme said the EU will now give dialogue a chance saying, "we have reached a very important stage in the normalisation of our relations with Zimbabwe. We have to find ways to rebuild trust. Let's move forward towards normalization of relations."

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa pre-empted the EU announcement in July.

Chinamasa said at that time that the EU was lifting all sanctions ‘imposed on Zimbabwe’ on the November 1st following a promise made earlier by the economic bloc.

He said this while addressing students at the National Defence College in Harare.

President Mugabe has previously urged the United States and the European Union to remove their "unilateral and illegal sanctions," berating them for trying to achieve "regime change" through sanctions in his country.

The EU decided in February to keep Mr. Mugabe and his wife under an asset freeze and a ban on travelling to the EU for another year. The bloc also retained an arms embargo on Zimbabwe and sanctions on arms supplier, Zimbabwe Defense Industries.

But sanctions, which are reviewed annually, were suspended on the eight senior Zimbabwe officials who include Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander Constantine Chiwenga, army commander Phillip Valerio Sibanda, Air Force commander Perence Shiri, intelligence chief Happyton Bonyongwe, police chief Augustine Chihuri and Didymus Mutasa, Minister of State for Presidential Affairs.