The European Union is set to meet in Brussels next week to, among other things, review the illegal sanctions the bloc imposed on Zimbabwe in 2002. Many people and countries have called for the lifting of the embargo. Our Senior Reporter, Zvamaida Murwira , caught up with EU Head of Delegation in Zimbabwe, Ambassador Aldo Dell'Ariccia to talk about the forthcoming meeting and other issues. We publish excerpts here.
How would you describe relations between Zimbabwe and the European Union at the moment?
Progressive. As a matter of fact they are progressing in relation to the progress of the situation in Zimbabwe. We are enjoying improving relations with this country.
They started improving in 2010 after the establishment of inclusive Government and the Global Political Agreement. It has further progressed in these three-and-a-half years after the peaceful referendum and it is still work in progress.
The aim of the European Union is to support the people of Zimbabwe in achieving a peaceful, democratic and prosperous society.
How would you describe your personal relations with the Government of Zimbabwe?
As a diplomat I have frequent interactions with authorities at different levels. At the level of ministers, permanent secretaries, senior administrators and I would qualify it as good and constructive.
In your view, how can relations between the EU and Zimbabwe be enhanced? What are the areas that you think need to be attended to for bilateral relations to be enhanced?
I think the basic element for that is to find ways of achieving the result which is as I mentioned before, a prosperous, democratic and peaceful Zimbabwe. This is also the aim of the Government, I am sure. In fact to find a way, how we can agree in constructive ways, on how to progress.
In relation to that, how do you describe Zimbabwe's harmonised elections? How would you rate them?
You know that the European Union welcomed the fact that the election had been peaceful and that there was level of freedom in the preparation of elections and the campaigns were free.
We also took note with concern the shortcomings and irregularities that have been observed by the international and national observers who were here. As you know, we were not invited, as observers we had to rely on reports from other observation teams in particular on the Sadc, AU and by non-governmental organisations.
We took note of the fact that these organisations identified shortcomings, irregularities and malpractices and also suggested ways to improve the electoral environment so that the next election will not suffer the same problems.
We are ready to co-operate and support the Government of Zimbabwe in progressing in the general improvement of the electoral environment.
Prior to the harmonised elections, the EU had indicated that their position would be guided by the position taken by the AU, the African Union endorsed the election...
No. The African Union said the elections were peaceful and free they did not completely endorse the electoral process. They identified, as I said before, a series of irregularities that affected the result unfortunately because it could have been perfect if the election had been completely credited by observers.
Both Sadc and AU identified several issues which are a matter of concern that require attention. But the point is that let's look in the future. The important thing is that in future we avoid these irregularities that affect the credibility of the process.
So as a result of that the EU did not endorse the election?
No. It is not a matter of endorsement or not. We did not take a stance on that. We just observed what others said. I have to say that we received mixed signals.
Some welcomed the election while others did not. I think that the dialogue should continue in a constructive way in these processes.
Ambassador, there are reports that there are divisions within the EU with respect to Zimbabwe. Are some countries not imposing their will on other countries especially on the imposition of sanctions in Zimbabwe? Are there no other countries against these sanctions?
Well, I can tell you one thing, all decisions of foreign policy of the European Union are taken by consensus, and they are unanimous. There are no minority positions. Every time there is a country decision to be made, the decision of all the member states of the European Union matters.
If one of the member states does not agree, there is no possibility of a decision being reached. So there might be discussions, there might be divergence of views which provoke discussion but at the end of the day the decision is of the EU, it is accepted and endorsed by all the 28 member states.
Of late Zimbabwe was invited to Brussels for purposes of exploring ways in which it can sell its diamonds. Does this not imply a soft- ening of the bloc's position on Zimbabwe or the bloc's admission that things are well in Zimbabwe?
No. I told you this is work in progress. After elections the EU decided to delist the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation from the list of restrictive measures. There were only two remaining State entities - Zimbabwe Defence Industries and ZMDC.
The EU decided to delist ZMDC, which paved way for the sale of diamonds from Marange to the EU. Diamonds from other areas were sold to the EU.
It was diamonds from Marange that could not be sold because ZMDC is a partner to the companies extracting diamonds at Marange. What is interesting is that for the first time in a long period, these sales had been completed transparently, the quantity was known, quality, origin was known, price fetched was known and the money that went to the coffers of the State was also known.
This is something which is very positive because transparency is one of the aspects which is also important to us in our relations with Zimbabwe.
Coming to the Euro-Africa Summit to be held in April, what should we expect?
This is the highest level of political dialogue between two continents. It's an opportunity to have frank and open exchange of views on different subjects that concern the two continents. It's positive to have political dialogue. What will come out of that, we will tell you after the meeting.
We have an Africa Summit to be preceded by Euro-Africa Business Forum where Zimbabwe is invited.
Did the EU willingly invite President Mugabe or it reluctantly did so because it had no option?
First of all, the invitation to President Mugabe is prior to the Summit of the African Union in Addis Ababa. President Mugabe was invited to a summit that took place in Lisbon in 2007 and he attended, EU Africa summit in Tripoli, Libya in 2010 and he attended and as a matter of continuity he is invited to the summit taking place in Brussels and it would be an opportunity to have dialogue of the two continents and dialogue as well on Zimbabwe.
I know you are not keen on talking about the forthcoming EU Council meeting, but is there any reason for Zimbabwe to have hope?
You see this is an extremely sensitive issue because we have to find consensus and un- animity and probably nothing is decided until everything is decided. So everything is still level.
It would not be appropriate for me to anticipate what the ministers will decide. I am just a civil servant, I am a diplomat. I am just waiting to have these discussions through and I will contact the Press and hold a Press conference as usual in order to communicate the decision, but at this stage I will not be in a position to tell you, discussions are ongoing so I am not in a position to tell you what the conclusions are.
As Ambassador of the EU what were your recommendations to the Council?
Well, all the ambassadors of the EU and United States here present their own recommendations to their capitals which are based on their own assessment of the situation on information gathered here and these contribute to the decision-making process together with other elements that can be gathered from other sources.
So it's a complex process where everything is brought to consideration in order to make sure that the EU position is the best possible one.
What were your recommendations in respect of your portfolio as EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe?
This is, of course, something that is internal and confidential. I think you will understand.