EU rewards Zimbabwe for 'concrete progress'

William Hague, U.K. Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, at the 3183rd Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels. Photo by: The Council of the European Union

After a 10-year suspension, the European Union will be resuming direct aid to Zimbabwe.

The decision is one of the earliest signs of donor re-engagement with the African nation. Donors such as the European Union and the United States imposed economic sanctions on the country following President Robert Mugabe’s expropriation of farmland. Donors started warming up to the country only after Mugabe begrudgingly agreed to enter into a coalition government with the Movement for Democratic Change, the main opposition party, in 2009.

The move will see the European Union channeling its aid back to the government under the 11th European Development Fund, which covers the period 2014-2020. Before this, the bloc had been coursing some €100 million a year ($123 million) in development aid through nongovernmental organizations, the private sector and donor partners.

Some EU member countries have also been channeling development aid to Zimbabwe through NGOs and other partners. The United Kingdom, for instance, has been coursing funding — which, for 2012-2013, is 84 million pounds ($130.6 million) — via nongovernmental and multilateral organizations. But there hasn’t been word yet on whether Britain would follow the European Union’s lead and resume direct aid to Zimbabwe, U.K. Department for International Development senior press officer Rob Kelly told Devex in an email.

Several sanctions, however, continue to be in place, such as travel bans and asset freezes on 112 people and 11 organizations, Reuters reports. Further easing of these sanctions would depend on the government’s move toward a “peaceful and credible constitutional referendum” this year.

Sanctions on Mugabe and his “inner circle,” however, will remain.

The move is the bloc’s means to encourage the government to pursue further political, economic and social reforms, including the implementation of free and fair elections in 2013. The approach, according to U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague, will show “reformers” the European Union is “serious” in responding to “concrete progress on the ground.”

The decision, however, is not set in stone: A change of course from the Zimbabwean government could lead to a resumption of the suspension.

“These decisions will be kept under constant review and if the situation deteriorates, we will of course not hesitate to respond appropriately,” Hague said in a press release.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.