It is important that this seminar is taking place here in Zimbabwe, at this point in time.
My colleague will introduce it in the second session, and give it its full technical and regional dimension.
For my part, I would like to focus on Zimbabwe, as host of this seminar, and as a key country in the region.
Trade relations, when it comes to EU and Zimbabwe, must be seen in the wider framework of current EU-Zimbabwe relations. These relations are directed by prospects emanating from the Global Political Agreement, and its related new political Dispensation.
I see constantly in some media, that all the wrongs of this country are the result of illegal sanctions imposed by the West to suffocate Zimbabwe, deliberately.
Perhaps it would be useful to demonstrate that this is misleading and counterproductive, including of course when Trade is concerned.
When the EU indeed applied a restricted policy towards Zimbabwe in 2002, it specifically excluded Trade relations from it. We would not be here today if it was not the case.
Let me first outline the reality of EU-Zimbabwe relations, then say a few words on Trade, and then briefly conclude.
The reality of EU-Zimbabwe relations
Zimbabwe is a signatory of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement. This is the framework for EU-Zimbabwe relations, along three related pillars: political relations, economic and financial relations, and Trade.
The EU and Zimbabwe have enjoyed a fruitful relationship from 1981 until 2002. In 2002, the EU partially suspended its government to government co-operation under the European Development Fund. This was a consequence of major disagreements over essential elements of the Cotonou Agreement ( Human Rights, Democratic principles, and the rule of law). The EU also adopted restrictive measures within the Common Foreign and Security Policy: prohibition of arms supply, travel ban and the freezing of assets against a number of persons or entities.
In essence, partial suspension of co-operation translates as follows : no budget support, suspension of projects except those in direct support to the population, humanitarian assistance not affected, regional projects assessed on a case to case basis, trade not affected. On this basis, between 2002 and 2009 included, the EU has committed more than 700 million Euros in Zimbabwe. This support is not limited to emergency, and is not implemented only through NGO's. We have maintained an effective cooperation at technical level with the Government. The EU has led the Donor Community towards food security as a better alternative to food aid. It is providing this year 25% of fertilizers needed by small farmers. It has initiated a retention allowance scheme for health workers nationwide. It has continued to support basic education. It has made in recent years significant proposals to engage with the Government on a number of issues in particular in relation to the land issue, the mother of all difficulties.
More important now are the prospects emanating from the reality of the Global Political Agreement.
The EU backed the GPA, and confirmed its desire to normalize its relationship with Zimbabwe. The new Dispensation of Zimbabwe asked for a dialogue with the EU, based on Article 8 of Cotonou, and aimed at normalizing EU-Zimbabwe relations. This dialogue was formally launched on 18 June 2009 in Brussels, between the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe and his inclusive three parties Delegation, and the EU Ministerial troika. A methodology of this re-engagement process was agreed: Zimbabwe to demonstrate GPA implementation through a road map, the EU to respond by its own road map of progressive normalization.
In this context, the EU has also committed to implement a 110 million euros Short Term Strategy, in line with Government priorities of the STERP. This commitment is now being fulfilled.
This is the reality of EU-Zimbabwe relationship and prospects for normalization. There is no such thing as a regime change agenda. Rather, there is a readiness from the EU to reengage with an inclusive Government with Robert Mugabe as President and Morgan Tsvangirai as Prime Minister, on the basis of an agreed methodology.
About EU-Zimbabwe trade relationship
Trade relations are not the subject of restrictions from the EU. The EU as a block continues to be a major trading partner of Zimbabwe with several EU Member States as most important markets in the EU.
Zimbabwe has benefited from preferences under the ACP-EU Cotonou Partnership Agreement. She can meet the existing beef export quota, and if she has not met it, it is due to foot and mouth disease, not sanctions. As a Sugar Protocol Country she is significantly benefiting from financial support for an adaptation strategy of the Sugar industry. Zimbabwe is a leading country in ongoing trade related negotiations with the EU in the context of Economic Partnership Agreements as part of this Cotonou framework.
A number of EU funded programmes aimed at increasing her capacity to take full advantage of EU-Zimbabwe trade possibilities are being implemented. This is more important now than before the GPA was signed, as prospects for economic recovery are real.
Zimbabwe has signed an interim EPA with the EU. It has secured the continuation of free access to EU markets for this country as a non LDC ACP and provided legal security for economic operators as well as improved rules of origin.
What is needed now is to actively seek the conclusion of a full EPA. A full EPA will make it possible for concerned countries to take maximum advantage of Trade as a powerful agent of Development with and from the EU, as well as of a vital regional economic integration.
On 5 December, both Zambia and Zimbabwe established a single post border in Chirundu.
This is a milestone in fostering regional cooperation on trade issues. Regional integration is a key objective of EPA's. I would like to command this important step.
Let me inform you as well that the Lisbon Treaty which has now entered into application since 1 December will make the EU stronger on Trade issues. Modalities on Trade as EU prerogative have been simplified as well.
Let me conclude now with a few additional comments.
Zimbabwe is a key partner of the SADC, and of any regional configuration she wants to be part of.
We are here to discuss Economic partnership Agreements. They are made of countries aiming at deepening their trade relationship with the EU.
For this to work in the best manner, relations beyond trade should be looked at as well. Countries in the region should be on the same wave length. In turn, the region should be stable in all respects so that it can be a stronger partner to the EU.
This is why it was important to me to focus on the host country of this seminar.
In the context of this seminar, there is strong value in recognizing the importance of EUZimbabwe re-engagement process and resulting normalization.
To achieve this re engagement, there is a methodology. Let us implement it.