THE European Union has rejected claims that its decision to extend sanctions on the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) represented a triumph of British foreign policy over the economic interests of Belgium which had reportedly expressed desire to have the sanctions lifted.
The EU voted to extend sanctions on the mining parastatal among a host of measures announced at a press conference in Harare on Monday.
The decision came against the backdrop of a reported stand-off between London and Brussels with Belgium -- whose second city of Antwerp is regarded as the diamond capital of the world due to its extensive diamond marketing industry -- keen to have the sanctions lifted while the Britain pressed for an extension insisting nothing had been done to warrant their removal.
"This is obviously a victory for British foreign policy objectives over the economic interests of the Belgians who wanted to see the measures removed so that their diamond industry could benefit from the relatively cheap Zimbabwean gems," said an EU source who declined to be named.
However, EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Aldo Dell'Ariccia said there was no acrimony between Belgium and the UK on the issue, saying the EU was a bloc of independent states which reach their decisions by consensus.
"The decision was arrived at because it was felt there were currently no reasons to justify their removal," said Dell'Ariccia.
"The removal of targeted measures is tied to democratic reforms of which a credible and peaceful referendum and elections would be considered a major breakthrough. It would be improper to look at the decision as a British victory because it was something all EU member states agreed on. Each member state may have its own view on an issue, but ultimately the foreign ministers have to sit down and reach consensus which then becomes the EU's decision."
Speaking on state television on Monday evening, ZMDC board chairperson Godwills Masimirembwa attacked the decision which he said was expected since Britain, erstwhile colonial power, still aspires to "cripple the Zimbabwean economy and justify the regime-change agenda".
"It is Britain's desire to keep Marange diamonds out of the international markets given the political tension between Harare and London over the land reform. It was therefore not surprising that Britain succeeded in manipulating the EU to further its agenda on Zimbabwe," said Masimirembwa.