Farirai Machivenyika, Harare Bureau
Zimbabwe and the European Union (EU) yesterday launched a formal dialogue process based on Article 8 of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement that governs relations between member States of the African-Carribean-Pacific regions and the EU in a major realisation of President Mnangagwa’s re-engagement policy which seeks to reintegrate Zimbabwe into the global family of nations.
Zimbabwe and the European bloc have endured underwarm relations in the past two decades and the dialogue opens a fresh page that will have major geopolitical implications and benefits for Zimbabwe, whose international relations adversely affected domestic prospects for growth economically and socially.
The dialogue is being co-chaired by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Permanent Secretary Ambassador James Manzou and the Head of the EU Delegation to Zimbabwe, Ambassador Timo Olkkonen.
In his remarks, Ambassador Manzou said the launch was a culmination of three years of informal dialogue between the two parties.
“This event that brings us together marks another milestone in the Government’s re-engagement efforts and indeed in the strengthening of relations between Zimbabwe and the EU,” he said.
“As you are all aware re-engagement, particularly this one with the EU is one of the foreign policy priorities of the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe. Looking back at the informal meetings we have had this year and the year before I am convinced that we have laid the ground work for a frank constructive engagement on all issues aimed at strengthening our relations.”
Ambassador Manzou added that through Vision 2030 the Government under the guidance of His Excellency, President Mnangagwa, has committed to transforming the country into an upper middle income economy by 2030.
“This is a huge task but one that we think is doable. We continue to count on the support our EU partners in our noble endeavour.
“Government is already making significant strides in carrying out political and economic reforms that are key in creating a conducive environment for business and more importantly for improving the life of ordinary Zimbabweans,” he said.
Ambassador Manzou said stronger Zimbabwe-EU relations would help in the attainment of Vision 2030.
In his remarks, Ambassador Olkkonen said the platform offered an opportunity to discuss areas of common interest.
“We hope that formal political dialogue will from now on become an integral part of the relations between the EU and the Republic of Zimbabwe,” he said.
“This should provide a useful platform to exchange views on topics that are of common interest and identify areas where we can deepen our relationship. It also provides a forum for a frank exchange of views on issues we might not agree upon and foster mutual understanding. Our commitment is to a relationship that we are building together, as partners.”
“In all our activities, we want to engage Zimbabwe on an equal footing, based on shared values, such as respect of human rights and the sustainable development goals agenda. A strengthened relationship between Zimbabwe and EU holds promise of increased investment and trade opportunities.”
The issues under discussion range from economic development, trade and investment, climate change and its humanitarian impact, human rights, democratisation, rule of law and good governance, as well as development cooperation, migration and regional and international cooperation.
Meanwhile, ambassador Manzou said the dialogue would be an ongoing process with the parties agreeing to meet twice a year while the next meeting is scheduled to be held within the first two weeks of November.