Members of the European Union Parliament have called on the 27-member bloc to lift illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe and respect the person Zimbabweans have elected as their leader. A five-member delegation of EU MPs arrived in Harare yesterday on a four-day fact-finding mission ahead of the bloc's review of sanctions on Zimbabwe next Thursday.
The delegation is led by the European Peoples Party member Dr Mario David of Portugal and is expected to meet President Mugabe, Vice President Joice Mujuru, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, local legislators and businesspersons.
EPP is the largest political family in the EU Parliament of 766 lawmakers.
In an interview after touching down at Harare International Airport, Dr David said it was time to end sanctions on Zimbabwe.
"We look forward to learning about the realities of Zimbabwe as things stand today," he said. "We want to see the impact of sanctions on the daily life of common citizens because we believe it is time for the sanctions to be lifted and for the people of Zimbabwe to start re-engaging with the European Union and vice versa for economic development of the country."
He said the mission was non-partisan and included MPs from Italy, Spain and Romania.
"There is going to be a discussion on the 20th (of February) and I have tabled a question to the (EU) Council on the lifting of sanctions. So the process is moving and we are very happy that we have started the process of discussing," Dr David said.
"It is time for the EU to review and see how the reality is different today from what it was 12 years ago and it is time for us to stop at all the sanctions."
He went on: "It makes no sense at all in that if you look at the names on the sanctions list, the first is President Mugabe and then his wife; at the same time President Mugabe is invited to the (EU-Africa) Summit in Brussels.
"He is the (First Deputy Chair) of the African Union and very soon he will be the Chairman of Sadc in August. Maintaining sanctions is hypocrisy in our day."
Dr David said whether what happened 12 years ago was "right or wrong" was history and co-operation was now needed.
"Yes, we cannot change history but we have to look in the future and do not behave in a hypocritical way," he said.
He said lifting sanctions on diamond firms and leaving other companies was a sign of Western double standards.
"Look at the efforts that Zimbabwe is doing in peacekeeping missions supported by the United Nations. At the same time we have firms in the military industry under sanctions and we want military forces from Zimbabwe to be present on the international scene but we say we cannot supply arms for these military forces. It is hypocrisy and we do not stand for that."
He said a possible boycott of the EU-Africa Summit by Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron would not stop the meeting.
"When we had the last summit in Portugal in 2007, President Mugabe was invited and the then British Prime Minister (Gordon Brown) did not come and he was the one to lose," Dr David said.
"We would like re-engagement of the 28 member states of the EU with all the states of African Union, including Zimbabwe, and the personality that Zimbabweans have elected as their President. I am looking forward to welcoming President Mugabe at the summit in Brussels."
Business Council of Zimbabwe president Mr Hlanganiso Matangaidze said it was noteworthy that the MPs were prepared to listen to the concerns of Zimbabweans.
The delegation, which came at the instigation of the BCZ, is also expected to meet editors of various media houses.