After seven years of silence, European Union officials met with Zimbabwean counterparts today.

"Today's meeting lays the foundation for a renewed relationship between the European Union and Zimbabwe," said Louis Michel, European commissioner for development and humanitarian aid, in Brussels after meeting Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who is on a world tour aimed at winning funds for his country's economic reconstruction.

Hit by hyperinflation for many years, the country is now facing a 94 percent unemployment rate and is in desperate need of economic assistance. The EU suspended aid to Zimbabwe in 2000 after President Robert Mugabe encouraged his supporters to invade and seize land owned by white farmers.

It seems that Europe's position has changed since Tsvangirai and other former regime opponents formed a joint government with Mugabe, who has ruled the country for 29 years with an increasingly iron fist.

"Your government offers an unique political opportunity to see Zimbabwe resume dialogue with international donors," Michel told Tsvangirai in Brussels.

Last month, the Swedish ambassador to Zimbabwe, Sten Rylander, stated that Sweden, which is going to preside over the EU next July, will work to reestablish good relations with Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe is still required to provide evidence of human rights and economic reforms before the EU will provide economic assistance. The southern African nation still suffers from a high level of corruption, and many government officials are said to be eager to slow the country's path to reform.

Winning funds from international donors could be a major first step towards change for the people of Zimbabwe.

About the author

  • Antoine Remise

    Antoine is a former international development correspondent for Devex, based in Paris. He holds a bachelor's in political science from the Institut d'Etudes Politiques of Lille and a master's in development administration and planning from the University College in London. Antoine has conducted researche for development projects in Chile, Senegal and Uganda, notably on education, health, local saving systems and housing issues. He is fluent in French, English and Spanish.