THE European Union (EU) has not yet suspended travel restrictions imposed on President Robert Mugabe despite his recent appointment as the new African Union (AU) chairperson, it has emerged.
BY PHILLIP CHIDAVAENZI
EU diplomats told NewsDay yesterday that no fresh decision has been taken on Zimbabwe as the bloc was only expected to meet on February 20 to review the measures.
One diplomat said EU spokesperson Catherine Ray was quoted out of context by the media which reported on Tuesday that the travel ban on Mugabe will be lifted when he is travelling on AU business.
The official said according to bloc’s Council Common Position of February 18 2002 concerning restrictive measures against Zimbabwe, any future visits to Europe by Mugabe would be dealt on a case-by-case basis by the respective member countries.
“Mugabe is unlikely to resume personal trips to Europe, but will be able to attend international meetings as the chair of the African Union,” another diplomat said.
The sanctions list was last reviewed in February last year during which Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander Constantine Chiwenga, Zimbabwe National Army commander Phillip Valerio Sibanda, Air Force commander Perence Shiri, intelligence chief Happyton Bonyongwe, police chief Augustine Chihuri and former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Didymus Mutasa’s names were removed.
“Paragraph 1 will not oblige a Member State to refuse its own nationals entry into its territory… Member States may grant exemptions from the measures imposed in paragraph 1 where travel is justified on the grounds of humanitarian need, including religious obligation, or on grounds of attending meetings of international bodies or conducting political dialogue that promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Zimbabwe,” reads the article on the Council Common Position of February 18 2002.
“Member State wishing to grant exemptions referred to in paragraph 3 shall notify the council in writing. The exemption will be deemed to be granted unless one or more of the council members raises an objection in writing within 48 hours of receiving notification of the proposed exemption.”
The EU lifted its 12-year suspension of direct financial aid to the government of Zimbabwe, imposed after allegations of human rights abuses by Mugabe’s administration in 2002.
Political analyst Takura Zhangazha said even as AU chair, Mugabe may not be able to attend international summits involving those that had imposed sanctions on him despite the temporary lifting of the ban.