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Zimbabwean Ministers Invited to Resume Re-Engagement Talks With the E.U.

Zimbabwe Regional Integration Minister Priscilla Misihairambwi Mushonga

Foreign Affairs permanent secretary ambassador Joey Bimha told the VOA that low level re-engagement discussions between Zimbabwe and the European Union have been on-going but the dialogue will now be elevated to ministerial level

Three Zimbabwean ministers are set to travel to Europe this month for re-engagement talks with their European Union counterparts in an effort to normalize relations between Harare and Brussels.

The ministers are also expected to campaign for the removal of sanctions imposed against President Robert Mugabe and members of his inner circle, including companies with ZANU-PF links.

Relations between the then ZANU-PF government and the EU have been frosty for a decade now following the imposition of the sanctions at the height of Zimbabwe's political crisis.

Talks to normalize relations were initiated with the formation of the inclusive government in 2009 but stalled due to unspecified impediments that included the Visa ban on ZANU-PF ministers involved in the process.

EU head of delegation in Zimbabwe Ambassador Aldo Dell’ Ariccia is quoted in the state controlled Herald newspaper confirming his office has since sent an invitation to the coalition government for the Brussels talks.

Foreign Affairs permanent secretary Ambassador Joey Bimha told the VOA that low level discussions have been on-going but the dialogue will now be elevated to ministerial level.

The ministers are Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa of ZANU-PF, Regional Integration and International Co-operation Minister Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga of the Welshman Ncube formation of the MDC and Energy Minister Elton Mangoma of the Morgan Tsvangirai MDC.

Bimha told VOA's Violet Gonda that the recent removal of some people from the sanctions lists was a cosmetic gesture, adding at the heart of the discussions will be the suspension of development aid and budgetary assistance to Zimbabwe by the EU.

“Zimbabwe has done a lot but the EU has done very little," said Bimha. "The three political parties came together and signed the Global Political Agreement which was a very significant step, and they went on to form the inclusive government which has been very effective in terms of stability and economic recovery.”

“And the EU’s response was very, very little. Their response was the removal of some people who were already dead, from the sanctions list,” he added.

Rights groups say conditions in Zimbabwe are not yet ripe for western countries to totally remove the so-called targeted measures. They say the possibility of politically-motivated violence recurring in the country remains high.

Program director Joy Mabenge of the Institute for a Democratic Alternative for Zimbabwe says the EU and other countries that have imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe should give the reform process a chance, but only after a free and fair election is held with a democratic government firmly in place.

“Development aid has continued to come into Zimbabwe from the European Union but what we have not seen is direct budget support, what is not seen is money which comes through treasury,” said Mabenge.

“It is of course important for these relations to be normalized, but restrictive measures were placed because of the ZANU-PF regime’s history of corruption, the history of human rights abuses and violence. I think if that is corrected there will be no need for deeper discussions around re-engagement, re-engagement will occur naturally.”