Thursday, October 04, 2007

(HERALD) Zim sanctions political tool: EU study

Zim sanctions political tool: EU study
By Mabasa Sasa

A European Union study on the implementation of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement has admitted that the slapping of sanctions on Zimbabwe was a political tool designed to manipulate the outcome of the 2002 presidential elections as well as a form of punishment for embarking on the revolutionary land reform programme.

The study, commissioned to evaluate the coherence, co-ordination and complementarily of Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement, admits that the body precluded dialogue with Zimbabwe in a rush to slap sanctions ahead of the elections.

Article 96 of the agreement, which regulates relations between the EU, Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP), outlines the procedures to be followed should a country be deemed to be in violation of certain governance, rule of law and human rights requirements of the document as defined in Article 8.

Part of the study, "The fact that the EU decided to commence Article 96 processes even though no effective dialogue had taken place under Article 8 points toward incoherence in the EU approach, since the aim of the EU had been to proceed to Article 96, only if dialogue did not solve the problem.

"The explanation for the haste was the forthcoming elections. In other words, foreign policy goals were safeguarded and considered more important than the partnership principle in the Cotonou Agreement."

This effectively means the EU deliberately flouted its own procedures so that the sanctions regime could be mobilised in time to influence the elections.

According to the Agreement, ACP countries are engaged in dialogue for a maximum of 60 days over any contentious issues and are given a chance to respond to any allegations before a decision is made, which was not the case with Zimbabwe.

"The Commission and the Council Secretariat were already preparing the papers for the passing of sanctions against Zimbabwe. This again points to incoherence as the EU was not waiting for Zimbabwe’s response, even though the aim of the consultations had been to try and solve the problem," the study says.

"Article 96 has usually been considered as an instrument of last resort instead of an instrument that could be used to prevent major constitutional crises. It is often initiated in a reactive manner only after flagrant breaches of the essential elements have taken place. Zimbabwe is an exception."

Another revelation in the report is that sanctions were slapped to erode capacity for governance and place pressure on the economy and key institutional structures with the eventual aim of seeing Zimbabwe collapse.

It also accepts that the so-called targeted sanctions have adversely affected the economy.

The report concedes that the United Kingdom largely influenced the EU’s position on Zimbabwe and that a clique of hardliners had pushed for Harare’s isolation.

These hardliners were identified as the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and the Nordic countries.

"The United Kingdom was active in pressing the Commission to propose (Article 96) consultations with Zimbabwe in a speedy manner and literally coerced the EU to slap sanctions.

"France, Belgium and Spain were more moderate. France in particular opposed invoking Article 96, however in line with its agreement with the UK in Saint Malo in 1998, which stipulated that both countries should respect each other’s policy, it left the EU-Zimbabwe policy largely to the British."

The reason why EU policy on Zimbabwe was left to the UK and the other hardliners was because it was accepted that these states had economic and political interests in what was going on in this country. This puts paid to claims that the EU position on Zimbabwe has thus far been governed by issues of human rights, rule of law and governance but rather has been based on the economic interests of the UK and its allies in the body.

The study noted that there was displeasure with the conciliatory tone adopted by the Head of Delegation of the European Commission — the implementing arm of the EU — in Zimbabwe, Ambassador Xavier Marchal.

"Some member states criticise the current Commission delegation for being too lenient and overlooking the common view of the member states. Under the previous Head of Commission Delegation, the Commissioner’s approach was more centred on human rights."

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