In an unprecedented development in the history of the impasse between Zimbabwe and the European Union (EU), a leading member of the EU Parliament has strongly criticised the bloc for employing double standards by maintaining punitive economic sanctions on the Southern African state.
The lawmaker also condemned the grouping for reneging on its undertaking to recognise the outcome of the July 31 harmonised elections, which Zanu-PF ultimately won thunderously after seeing off the MDC formations.
In a priority question written to the European Council, Portugal's representative in the Seventh Legislature, Mr Mario David, said other countries were more deserving of sanctions than Zimbabwe whose human rights record was uncontestable.
Mr David, who is also the co-chair of the Foreign Affairs Working Group in the Parliament, challenged the grouping to appraise Harare's human rights and democratic principles record against that of other nations, which are not under similar sanctions.
He said the EU should "lift the sanctions against Zimbabwe" during its annual review meeting next month, adding that allowing the country to sell Marange diamonds in Antwerp was a selfish decision meant to benefit the European industry.
He concluded by demanding to know whether the council agreed that it was time to lift the sanctions. The council has up to the end of this month to respond.
The European Council is an institution of the union and consists of all EU heads of state and government; the president of the European Commission and the council president. It defines the general political direction and priorities of the EU.
Mr David also posted an abridged version of his arguments on his personal internet website and official Facebook page, attracting several "likes".
"The grave economic and social consequences of the sanctions have caused deep suffering among the Zimbabwean people, in particular among the poorer members of society, by restricting employment, social services provision and development opportunities," said the Angolan-born parliamentarian in a note made on January 9.
"When the EU reviews the subject in February 2014, it will be time for it to lift the sanctions against Zimbabwe and to restart mutual political and economic co-operation in all fields, which will only prove beneficial to both sides.
"The EU should not employ double standards in dealing with its partners. If the EU were to appraise respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law seriously and coherently, how many countries would face sanctions? No matter what kind of 'excuses' are found to justify the lifting of sanctions on the export of diamonds, no one would understand it to be anything but a hypocritical decision taken in the interests of the EU industry."
Mr David, who was elected by the Portuguese Social Democrat Party (PSD) into the European Parliament, questioned the EU's negative stance against the outcome of Zimbabwe's national elections despite having earlier undertaken to recognise it. "Council Decision 2012 / 97/CFSP of 17 February 2012 recognised that the creation of the GNU afforded an opportunity to re-establish a constructive relationship between the EU and Zimbabwe," he said.
"More recently, the EU has given an undertaking to respect both the outcome of the 31 July, 2013 harmonised elections and the assessment of those elections by the ACP Group, Sadc and African Union observation missions.
"The elections that were deemed by most international observers as the most free, fair and peaceful to have been held in Zimbabwe's history, were, to the surprise of the international community, those that gave President Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF the largest and most credible victory."
The EU, along with the United States, imposed illegal economic sanctions on Zimbabwe after the latter embarked on a land reform programme to correct colonial land imbalances that saw a minority white population owning over 70 percent of arable land.
Zimbabwe has been reeling from the effects of the debilitating embargo after former colonial power Britain internationalised its bilateral dispute with the country over land.
The sanctions have continued to inhibit the Southern African state's ability to develop economically and stifled new investment and access to multilateral finance institution support.
The punitive measures combined are estimated to have cost Harare over US$42 billion in potential revenue over the past 13 years.
The country's trade with much of the Western world has been curtailed despite the sanctions having been imposed in contravention of the Cotonou Agreement, which governs relations among the EU, African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. Zimbabwean-owned companies are also unable to conduct telegraphic transactions with any international financial institution.
Last year, the EU made a piece-meal revocation of the embargo by withdrawing the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) from a lengthy sanctions list after facing mounting pressure from Belgium.
The development saw Zimbabwe carry out its first auction of diamonds mined in Marange in Antwerp from December 11 to 16 following high-level meetings between senior Government and Antwerp World Diamond Centre officials.
Pressure to scrap the sanctions has been mounting within the EU with several countries speaking against the embargo. Zimbabwe has a pending case at the General Court of Justice of the European Union where it is challenging the sanctions. The case was brought before the court by then Attorney-General Johannes Tomana.
Trinity Engineering founder and chief executive Cde Aguy Georgias was the first to challenge the sanctions legally.
His case is still pending at the bloc's General Court where he is seeking compensation for damages against the European Commission and the Council of the European Union.