All sanctions imposed by the European Union on Zimbabwe must be removed to enable enhanced trade between the two, a leading member of the bloc's Parliament said yesterday.European People's Party vice president Dr Mario David of Portugal said Zimbabwe had vast opportunities for international trade.
The EU conducts its annual review of the ruinous sanctions next Thursday. Mr David is part of a five-member delegation of EU MPs in Zimbabwe on a four-day fact-finding mission ahead of the review.
He said the sanctions were scaring away investors, and the EU should scrap the travel bans on 10 senior Government officials - including President Mugabe and his family - and remove strategic firms from the list of those embargoed.
The delegation yesterday heard from senior Government and health sector officials, and industry and farmers' representatives how sanctions had brought down social services.
The EU lawmakers will give feedback to the bloc's Parliament of 766 MPs in Belgium next week. Dr David said from presentations by various stakeholders, it was evident that sanctions were affecting ordinary Zimbabweans.
"First to explain the effects of the sanctions was the Clerk of Parliament (Mr Austin Zvoma) and he was talking sense," he said. "The conclusion after that is very simple. The perception of the people in Europe and some politicians is that the travel ban on 10 people and military firms is not affecting ordinary Zimbabwe, yet that is totally wrong."
Dr David said no investor was willing to invest in a "sanction-infested" country.
"If I am an investor in Europe and want to invest, you look at different areas and what do you think happens when it comes to Zimbabwe? There are sanctions and I go somewhere else and this is the mentality we have to change.
"The EU has to re-engage because we are saying there is a place of opportunity called Zimbabwe and it can be a win-win situation that benefits the industry in Europe and the people of Zimbabwe."
Mr David said it did not matter if the sanctions were direct or indirect, they simply had to go.
"At the end of the day they are damaging, that is why the notion that EU sanctions are not as damaging as those of America does not hold water," he said. "We do not care what kind of sanctions, all have to go."
Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Ambassador Christopher Mutsvangwa said Zimbabwe lost a decade of development because of the embargo.
"Social services have suffered because Government has been denied access to lines of credit," he said. "Europe should not continue to put obstacles on what Zimbabwe can achieve. All we want is an even relationship with them."
He said Europe was losing out on trade as a result of isolating itself.
"Europe used to be the centre of capital, but a lot has changed and new players have come into play," Ambassador Mutsvangwa said.
"The EU should not behave as if it is the centre of the world and should accept that we are also important in our own way."
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers' Union president Mr Wonder Chabikwa and Harare City Council director of health Dr Prosper Chonzi explained to the delegation how the sanctions were affecting farmers and the health sector, respectively.