Dáil Éireann - Volume 588 - 24 June, 2004

Written Answers. - Human Rights Issues.

  38. Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Foreign [175] Affairs if he will report on the political situation in Zimbabwe; if during the Irish Presidency of the European Union, there has been formal contact between the EU and Zimbabwe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18771/04]

  Mr. Cowen: The political situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate and remains a cause of serious concern for Ireland and EU partners. The decline in respect for human rights and the rule of law persists. Arbitrary arrests and political violence continue. Inflation now stands at over 600% and the World Food Programme estimates that over half the population will require food aid this year, despite the predictions of the Zimbabwe Grain Marketing Board, GMB, and the decision on the part of the Government not to request international general food aid. The conduct of the Zengeza and Lupane by-elections in March and May 2004, respectively, was marred by violence, intimidation and irregularities. The EU stated, in a Presidency declaration, that the electoral environment of these elections cannot be deemed to have been free, fair or safe for voters. In response to both elections the EU called on the Government of Zimbabwe to allow every political party an equal level of electoral freedom to prevent instances of violence and intimidation in the pre-election period. This is of particular importance in view of the parliamentary elections scheduled for March 2005. The political dialogue initiated between the EU and Zimbabwe to address ongoing concerns was closed in February 2002 when it became clear that the Government of Zimbabwe was not willing to engage on any meaningful level. The lack of progress by the Government of Zimbabwe on these issues is reflected in the EU’s Common Position on Zimbabwe, which was renewed in February 2004. The Council renewed sanctions on those individuals whom the EU regards as bearing the main responsibility for serious violations of human rights in Zimbabwe. The sanctions are targeted exclusively against the political elite and include a travel ban and assets freeze, as well as an arms embargo.

EU concerns with respect to Zimbabwe have been raised in dialogue with our African partners. This was done at the EU-Africa and EU-South Africa ministerial meetings which I chaired in Dublin on 1 and 2 April 2004. The Irish Presidency arranged for the EU’s Common Position on Zimbabwe to be formally communicated to all members of the Southern African Development Community. We also reiterated our willingness to engage with the Government of Zimbabwe but only on the basis of an established set of governance-centred benchmarks. The EU has no formal political contact with the Government of Zimbabwe. EU heads of mission in Harare do, however, engage with the authorities when delivering démarches expressing our concern at specific events or general policies condemned by the EU.

[176] The EU does not wish to pursue a policy of isolation in relation to Zimbabwe. It has identified a number of governance-centred benchmarks for the Government of Zimbabwe to implement. Satisfaction on these benchmarks would open the way towards normalisation of EU relations with Zimbabwe. The EU is strongly committed to the welfare of the Zimbabwean people, as evidenced by its allocation of over €370 million of humanitarian assistance to the citizens of Zimbabwe over the 2002-04 period. Development Co-operation Ireland, DCI has also made €8 million in emergency and humanitarian assistance available for the affected countries in southern Africa, of which €3 million went to Zimbabwe. DCI also provided funding of over €2 million to five development projects in Zimbabwe. All of this aid is channelled through the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the Red Cross and other international NGOs.

Question No. 39 answered with Question No. 9.