The European Union (EU) has been accused of lacking “guts” to deal decisively with President Robert Mugabe, internationally condemned for human rights violations, political repression and private assets seizures, a member of the European parliament has said.
The comments by the MEP comes ahead of the 3rd EU-Africa summit that begins in Tripoli in Libya on Monday.
Together with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, President Mugabe is expected to hog the limelight at the summit, where issues to do with investment and economic partnerships between the two continents will be discussed.
Speaking at the plenary session in Strasbourg, France European Conservatives and Reformists group MEP Geoffrey Van Orden expressed his dismay at President Mugabe’s presence and at the EU’s “failure to do more” to encourage democracy and the rule of law in Africa.
“Three years ago I complained bitterly in the lead up to the EU-Africa summit about the EU’s hypocrisy,” said Van Orden.
“It had imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on Mugabe and his ilk and had then invited him to a summit in Lisbon. Since then, Mugabe has continued to trample on the rights of Zimbabwe’s people, showed scant regard for the political agreement that he made with Morgan Tsvangirai, and has continued his global travels.
“It’s not surprising so little progress has been made in bringing about change in countries like Zimbabwe. The African states receive such garbled signals from Brussels.
“I doubt that anyone will have the guts to mention their disapproval of Mugabe’s presence when they are feasting in Libya.”
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba on Sunday confirmed that President Mugabe would attend Monday’s summit in Tripoli.
“President Mugabe is the President of Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe is in Africa and Africa is meeting the EU,” said Charamba.
“Whatever views we may have as a country would be in the broader contest of the African continent”.
Critics say the presence of Mugabe and al-Bashir threatens to overshadow the whole proceedings.
President Mugabe who is one of the fiercest Western critics has been at loggerheads with the West over the imposition of targeted sanctions while the latter accuse him of gross human rights violations.
Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
He is the subject of an international arrest warrant.
African governments are pushing for better conditions of exports into the EU market.
African governments say they want to make sure new proposed trade deals with the EU are fair and support the continent’s long-term development goals.
However some countries including South Africa, are resisting the introduction of the new Economic Partnership Agreements.
The EU insists that the agreements benefit Africa and is demanding the liberalisation of market access and reduction of import tariffs on EU goods in return.
The summit, which will be attended by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, Commission President José Manuel Barroso and Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs, continues the work of the Africa-EU Partnership launched in 2007 to establish cooperation that went beyond development work.