Harare (New Ziana) – President Emmerson Mnangagwa takes the government’s engagement and re-engagement drive, a cornerstone policy thrust of his administration, to Brussels on Tuesday where he will join dozens of other leaders for an African Union-European Union (AU-EU) Heads of State summit.
African leaders will be joining their European counterparts for the sixth AU-EU summit between 17 and 18 February.
According to the EU, the summit presents “A unique opportunity to lay the foundations for a renewed and deeper AU-EU partnership with the highest political involvement and based on trust and a clear understanding of mutual interests.”
“The aim is to launch an ambitious Africa-Europe Investment Package, taking into account global challenges such as climate change and the current health crisis,” part of the agenda says.
Peace and security issues will also feature prominently on the agenda, against the backdrop of successive coups in West Africa that are threatening the stability of that region.
A series of thematic roundtables will also be organised with topics including growth financing, health systems, and vaccine production, agriculture and sustainable development, education, culture and vocational training, migration and mobility, private sector support, and economic integration.
EU and AU heads of state will be participating in the roundtables, together with a selected group of external guests who are experts in their respective fields.
“A joint declaration on a joint vision for 2030 is expected to be adopted by the participants.”
However, for Zimbabwe, the visit to Brussels, the seat of the EU, affords President Mnangagwa and his delegation an opportunity to forge ahead with the re-engagement charm offensive after a highly successful sojourn at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland last year.
At the summit, President Mnangagwa met with several world leaders including Joe Biden of the United States, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Commonwealth secretary-general Baroness Patricia Scotland, making massive headway in restoring and thawing relations.
Last week, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Frederick Shava held a meeting with EU ambassadors in preparation for the Brussels summit.
“Every year, every week, every day – Zimbabwe continues to make great strides in re-engaging with the world. As we prepare to go to the AU-EU summit in Brussels, it was a pleasure to speak with Ambassadors from 9 European nations on how our peoples can work together. It appeared we are reading from the same page and that is good for humanity,” he tweeted after the meeting.
EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Timo Olkonnen said dialogue between the two sides was important.
“Important and fruitful discussion with Honourable Shava and EU Member States on preparations for EU-AU summit. Other issues discussed included our political dialogue, elections, and human rights/civic space,” he said.
Since the coming in of the new dispensation in 2017, Zimbabwe has received massive international goodwill as the global community continues to re-embrace the Southern African country, whose relations with the West, in particular, had soured due to differences over the land reform program implemented at the turn of the millennium.
The differences led to, among other things, the imposition of economic sanctions against Zimbabwe by countries from whose kith and kin the government had expropriated prime agricultural land for redistribution to the previously marginalised black majority.
But, in a swing in attitudes towards the new administration, many Western countries have re-opened avenues to rekindle the long-lost relationship with Zimbabwe.
In June 2019, Zimbabwe and the EU launched a formal political dialogue framework as a direct result of the re-engagement agenda following years of informal engagements between the two sides.
The dialogue framework is based on Article 8 of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement between the EU and African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries which outlines the specific modalities for regular, comprehensive, and balanced political dialogue between the two sides.
As a further sign that the re-engagement agenda was working, Zimbabwe is now a regular feature at major international fora involving western countries such as the Brussels meeting.
Traditionally held every three years, the summit had been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
At the previous summit in 2017 in Côte d’Ivoire, EU and African leaders adopted a joint declaration outlining common priorities for the EU-Africa partnership in four strategic areas including economic opportunities for youth, peace, and security, mobility and migration, cooperation on governance.
Driving Europe’s agenda at the conference is French President Emmanuel Macron, whose government took over the six-month presidency of the Council of the European Union in January this year,
Macron is keen to rejuvenate Africa – EU relations, and has described the current relationship as “a bit tired.”