By Eunice Masunungure
THE upcoming European Union (EU) review meeting to be held this month in Brussels, Belgium must be closely monitored, particularly the bloc’s stance on its illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe.
The EU’s insistence on so-called ‘reforms’, despite the new dispensation’s huge efforts to reengage at all costs, raises questions on whether the EU is interested in re-engaging Zimbabwe because the West in its entirety has not shifted from its regime change agenda.
The Zimbabwe – EU political dialogue under the Cotonou Partnership Agreement was elevated to Ministerial level in November 2019.
The EU must use the dialogue platform which was formalised through the June 2019 senior officials’ meeting, the November 2019 Ministerial meeting and the upcoming May/June 2020 meeting to lift all sanctions against Zimbabwe and stop its doggedness about continuing to review the sanctions.
Although Ambassador Timo Olkonnen, the head of the EU Delegation to Zimbabwe, tried to paint a thriving relationship during the launch of the Zimbabwe-EU Partnership Agreement Support Programme (ZEPA) on February 3 2020, there are still a lot of glaring gaps the EU has to deal with.
Said Olkonnen: “The ZEPA project has resources that are ready to be deployed to expedite business climate reforms and in particular to do away with the plethora of regulations, procedures, permits and licence requirements which are raising the cost of exporting rendering Zimbabwe’s exports uncompetitive.
The success of the ZEPA interventions is dependent on serious commitment by the Government authorities to these reforms.”
Olkonnen’s statements leave out the fact that the West is actually the determinant factor when it comes to removal of sanctions.
Instead of continually blaming the Zimbabwe Government, there is need for proper introspection.
The statements are a clear indication that not much is going to change.
The EU’s insistence on frivolous reasons regarding ‘reforms’ and changing goal posts at every opportunity proves that the EU is not interested in genuine reengagement.
Zimbabwe definitely wants to do business with the West, but sanctions are reminiscent of the colonial instrument allowing the West to determine the rules of the game and the so-called ‘democracy’ which works in their favour as rightly predicted in Francis Fukuyana’s End of History and the Last Man.
Worth noting is that the EU February sanctions review meeting resounds El-Said’s argument in his analysis of the ‘Self’ and the ‘Other’ in Bill Ashcroft et al’s (2003) Post-Colonial Studies Reader:
The representations of ‘Others’ to Europe are ‘not accounts of different peoples and societies, but a projection of European fears and desires masquerading as scientific ‘objective’ knowledge’.
Said’s concept of ‘othering’ can be applied to Zimbabwe’s relations with the West.
Failing to see reforms that the Government has been making in line with Vision 2030 and the mantra that ‘Zimbabwe is Open for Business’ is to look at the country’s initiatives from a Western perspective.
The EU must fully appreciate the progress that the Zimbabwean Government has made in the reforms and re-engagement initiative.
For example, more than 159 of the outstanding 210 laws, were aligned to the Constitution, while various Commissions were established.
The removal of the sanctions against Zimbabwe did not require many of these formalities.
It should be as easy for the EU as it was when the bloc abruptly cut off 128 million Euros which flowed into the country in development aid for the 2002-2007 period.
It must be simple as it was when the bloc made Zimbabwe lose a preferential tariff quota which previously enabled the country to export 9 100 metric tonnes of beef into the EU annually under the Convention on Beef and Veal Protocol.
There is nothing difficult for the EU to restore Zimbabwe’s preferential tariff quota which stood at 30 225 metric tonnes annually and could increase its sugar quota by a further 25 000 metric tonnes under the variable Special Preference under the Sugar Protocol.
The EU has never cited the effects of its sanctions and that all the quotas and dues Zimbabwe was entitled to were lost due to sanctions.
The cotton industry in Zimbabwe has been failing to access the EU markets except through middlemen.
This has resulted in loss of between five-to-10 percent of the value of produce.
The cotton industry is failing to pay for inputs, spare parts and machinery to companies abroad.
There is nothing that can stop the EU unblock payments; sort the need for first class bank guarantors demanded by foreign companies and shorten the process of getting funds.
The financial and restrictive travel measures on specific individuals are uncalled for.
By 2004, the list numbered 95 individuals, then rising to 203 individuals and 40 entities in 2009, following the elections in 2008.
The discrimination undermined regional integration initiatives and slowed down development.
The EU has maintained its stance, while attempting to sanitise itself from other institutions that placed sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Instead of considering changes being implemented by the new Government in Zimbabwe, what the EU has been focusing on is trashing President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration efforts to transform the fortunes of the country.
In all this the EU forgets that sanctions against Zimbabwe must be completely lifted because they violate Article 41 of the United Nations Charter, which states that sanctions can only be decided by the UN Security Council.
Sanctions are destructive foreign policy tools which are incompatible with international law, violate human rights by targeting the most vulnerable groups of society like women, children, the disabled and the elderly.