The Sunday Mail
Ambassador Philippe Van Damme
The European Union Commission is engaging all those willing to introduce economic and political reforms in Zimbabwe.
We always say democratic and constitutional priorities should be set and we continue to follow up on these issues, assisting where possible.
In the short-term, before elections in 2018, the Commission could help Government initiate some of these reforms by providing technical assistance.
We have already provided technical support in the budget process and remain open to enhancing Zimbabwe’s economic sectors.
At present, we are focusing on agriculture, the business environment and the broad economic partnership agreement.
We would be most willing to see more financial support come Zimbabwe’s way as some facilities have been underutilised in the past.
If Government is willing to accelerate various reforms announced in the past couple of years, then we will see how we can improve funding.
So far, we have over the last two years mobilised 11 million euro to support the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
And such money is also channelled through the United Nations Development Programme to help civil society organisations that partner Zec.
In addition, the support includes inter-party dialogue and creating platforms for deliberations between Zec and political parties.
The 11 million euro was committed over two years, so we are mobilising more funds.
Further, a 25 million euro fund, which was part of the National Indicative Programme, is also there.
The NIP covers 2015-20 and has three (areas) of concentration.
The first covers governance, institutional capacity-building, elections and justice, while the second set covers agriculture and the third health.
A total of 85 percent of these funds has been committed, with the processes already implemented.
Recently, we asked people to submit proposals under the 40 million euro Zimbabwe Agriculture Growth Programme, which focuses on livestock production.
In total, NIP totalled 234 million and most of it has been exhausted as 85 percent has been contracted.
There are other funds on top of the 234 million euro.
For example, more than 20 million euro was mobilised for drought relief over a year ago. In 2015/16, EU member states mobilised more than 100 million euro, and that was ad hoc and short term funding unlike the NIP.
The EU has also released an additional three million euro to help Government in the area of wildlife protection.
On-going developments in Government might be an opportunity to enhance support, and we are willing to provide further support to enhance election processes.
Biometric voter registration has been extended to allow vulnerable and disenfranchised groups in society to register so that no one is left out.
We have also taken note of other developments; for example, issues to do with aliens, birth certificates and national identity cards, which reconfirm these people’s rights to democratic participation.
We are also looking at deploying long-term election observation teams if Government is willing.
The question which most people are asking is: Will this new dispensation lead to new money?
The truth is that in the short-term, we may mobilise funds mainly in relation to the electoral process and related areas such as constitutional alignment, judicial issues, reforms.
However, there will not be significant new funding coming in until you have credible elections.
If elections are credible and Government engages international financial institutions such as the IMF and World Bank, manages to clear arrears and agrees on an extended credit facility with the IMF, then we may consider additional funding to accompany that reform process.
Part of the money that may come in future may come through the African Union-EU agreement; that is of 4,4 billion euro.
That money will have a multiplier effect and lead to blending initiatives for infrastructure in Africa, lead to risk reduction and investment.
The public sector cannot access these funds before agreeing on the reform package.
At the AU-EU Summit, there was a component on peace and security that also (leads) to questions regarding security sector transformation.
The Libyan issue came up, leading to a question on how we can address migration.
Zimbabwe, for example, is a case in point because of the huge migration to South Africa, and we are supportive of regional efforts to assist.
However, to unlock full potential from all initiatives, Zimbabwe must take a major step by conducting credible elections and engaging IFIs to clear arrears.
The EU was the main co-funder of the Kariba rehabilitation programme, which was a 300 million euro programme.
Zimbabwe has a complex structure so we had to support the programme through Zambia.
This is why we are urging Government to clear arrears as soon as possible so that in future, your country can benefit more.
Currently, your country has cleared arrears with the IMF, but the pari-passu rule requires that you clear your arrears with the World Bank and African Development Bank.
So, it is important that arrears are cleared with all multi-lateral lending institutions because the next step is unlocking multi-lateral funding.
And then you can move to the next stage, which is the Paris Club.
To unlock bilateral funding, Zimbabwe will have to secure a debt-restricting agreement with the Paris Club.
It’s a medium-term process that will take some time. If there is strong political will, you can move and start preparing for that future.
We have seen trade picking up in the last couple of years, but it highly remains in agriculture products.
We have always said that land reform was inevitable and it had to take place in Zimbabwe.
What we need now is to stabilise and rebuild the agriculture and business sectors.
I know it’s about historical events; the Lancaster House Agreement.
However, after World War I, we all asked for compensation and that resulted in World War II. We decided it was better for us to look forward and build a new Europe without any differences.
I would urge Zimbabweans not to look backward and settle old scores. They must build the future of this country together with all stakeholders.
We heard the President at the inauguration say he will be President of all Zimbabweans regardless of colour, political party or religion. That’s the point on which we have to build a new Zimbabwe where everyone is involved.
I hope that land will regain its value because it must have value for the growth of the nation.
Ambassador Philippe Van Damme is the Head of the European Union Delegation to Zimbabwe. He was speaking to The Sunday Mail’s Chief Reporter Kuda Bwititi in Harare last week