THE European Union yesterday said it had lifted its ban on budgetary and projects support for Zimbabwe, but resolved to retain the travel restrictions imposed on President Robert Mugabe and top government officials until February next year.
Addressing journalists in Harare, EU head of delegation Phillipe van Damme said the move was part of the process towards normalisation of relations between Harare and Brussels.
“The European Council, under the framework of its common foreign and security policy, also maintains restrictive measures (EU travel ban and asset freeze against a limited number of persons and entities in Zimbabwe and an arms embargo).The next regular review of these restrictive measures will take place in February 2015,” Van Damme said.
He added that the relaxation of relations had not been influenced by the anti-sanctions campaign launched by Zanu PF in 2011.
Zimbabwe went under EU trade and travel sanctions in 2002 following reports of gross human rights violations and electoral fraud.
However, Van Damme said throughout the period, the country enjoyed trade preferences with the EU and its member states spending about $2 billion on various projects from Zimbabwe.
“We have reached an important step with the normalisation of relations with Zimbabwe. We can engage on political and policy issues,” he said.
Van Damme said the country could now engage with the EU on agricultural reform and food security including the rehabilitation of the value chain system.
“We will be channelling 230 million euros ($300 million) for 2015-2020. We have to reassess on a case-by-case basis what is the best way to release the funds,” he said.
Van Damme said the funds would be coming to Zimbabwe next year after all the ratifications have been done by all member states.