Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeld
JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – The European Union is not ready to end its sanctions against Zimbabwe, Sweden’s Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said on Thursday after calls by southern African leaders for them to be lifted.
“I want to be clear: the EU is not prepared (for) lifting the restrictions we have on Zimbabwe,” said Reinfeldt, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency.
“It is not the restrictions that are creating problems in Zimbabwe, it is the mismanagement … not respecting of human rights,” he said in response to a question at a public address in Johannesburg.
Reinfeldt meets his South African leader Jacob Zuma later Thursday with Pretoria having come out strongly in support of the dropping of sanctions, ahead of a landmark EU visit to Zimbabwe at the weekend.
A high-level EU delegation will leave for Zimbabwe after the summit in a landmark trip to work on normalising ties, the first such visit since sanctions were imposed in 2002.
Both the EU and the United States maintain a travel ban and asset freeze on President Robert Mugabe, his wife and inner circle in protest at controversial elections and alleged human rights abuses.
Reinfeldt said Zimbabwe will be an “important part” of the meeting with Zuma, following the regional call for sanctions to end by the South African Development Community (SADC) at a summit on a Tuesday.
“I am interested to hear what President Zuma’s views are on the outcomes of the SADC summit. We depend on African leaders to be there and present, and to also influence,” he said.
The EU visit to Harare follows the first official talks in seven years held three months ago with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai who joined Mugabe in a unity pact nearly a year after chaotic polls pushed Zimbabwe deeper into crisis.
Swedish International Development Cooperation Minister Gunilla Carlsson and EU Aid Commissioner Karel De Gucht leave for Zimbabwe after an EU-South Africa summit on Friday.
On Saturday and Sunday they will meet Mugabe and Tsvangirai, as well as other ministers, officials and representatives of non-governmental organisations.
Zimbabwe’s unity government was formed in February but has been plagued by power struggles over key posts and claims of continued persecution of Tsvangirai’s supporters.
South Africa on Wednesday defended the regional call on sanctions, saying it was “a very responsible approach” to Zimbabwe’s troubles as it attempts to claw its way back from economic ruin.
“This call for the lifting of sanctions is not aimed at protecting and defending President Robert Mugabe as an individual. It is meant to attract necessary investments into Zimbabwe so that their economic recovery plan can take effect,” said Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.
Additional reporting: Yahoo News