Robert Mugabe and key members of his inner circle are set to remain on the list of targeted restrictive sanctions imposed by Europe, despite a review of the measures taking place next Monday.
European Union (EU) Ministers will be meeting in Brussels Monday and key decisions about Zimbabwe's future are set to be made. Chief among these are a review of the sanctions still in place, which include a ban on direct government to government aid, and the targeted restrictive measures against Mugabe and his cronies.
It is understood that EU ministers are already agreed on relaxing the measures to try and prompt more reform in Zimbabwe, a decision that will be conditional on these reforms actually taking place. It is widely expected that the decade long ban on direct government aid will be lifted, while the restrictive measures against some individuals and companies might also be conditionally suspended.
Sources in Brussels quoted by the Reuters news agency have said that the measures against Mugabe himself and his inner circle will definitely remain, a position supported by the UK. The Foreign Office was quoted this week as saying the measures on Mugabe will not be relaxed.
But the apparent softening in stance towards the Mugabe regime has riled many critics, with some arguing that any loosening of the measures is the same as rewarding the regime for its human rights abuses.
Piers Pigou from the International Crisis Group told SW Radio Africa on Friday that whatever decision the EU takes is not a guarantee of reform, but "the old formula of waiting for reform clearly has not worked."
"Yes, there is the cynical argument that there are many reforms that could take place without the measures being lifted and it's all a question of political will," Pigou said.
He added: "But what this does do is put the ball firmly into Zimbabwe's court and SADC's court in terms of a narrowed down reform agenda. And, whatever is taken away can always be reintroduced."