EU dumps confrontation, opts for dialogue with Zim
Harare (New Ziana) – After four years being represented in Harare by combative outgoing ambassador Timo Olkkonen, a man routinely inclined to confrontation, the European Union (EU) said on Wednesday it was now investing more energy in diplomacy with Zimbabwe under a new man, Jobst von Kirchmann.
Von Kirchmann, presented his credentials to President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday, and immediately declared the EU’s change in focus in its relations with Zimbabwe.
Olkkonen, who served between 2018 and 2022, along with the former U.S ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols, formed an unholy alliance in which they routinely harshly criticised the government, and openly supported opposition parties in a bid to effect regime change.
But, signalling a departure from the past, Von Kirchmann said he was now interested in seeing Zimbabwe and the EU engaging in diplomacy more.
“My mission is clearly targeting constructive engagement with Zimbabwe,” he told reporters.
He said his task would be made easier by the progressive development policies being implemented by the Zimbabwe government.
“I think Zimbabwe has a very ambitious vision, the vision is the National Development Strategy 1 which wants to bring Zimbabwe towards an inclusive, empowered and prosperous middle-income country by 2030. I think not only the European Union, but also the member states of the EU stand ready to support it.”
Kirchmann said the EU was currently Zimbabwe’s fourth biggest trading partner, and because of the economic trading partner agreement, he believes more could be done to the benefit of the two sides.
“We have about 125 million euros of investment currently in the country which creates jobs obviously and I am happy that our bank, the European Investment Bank has opened a credit facility for the private sector and I just had a meeting with them last week to see how we can enlarge that facility in the future, and to also increase further investment of the private sector,” he said.
The European bloc imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in solidarity with Britain, which had sought to use the collective EU economic pressure to force the government to abandon its land reforms in which excess white-owned farmland was compulsorily acquired to resettle landless blacks.
But after Britain’s exit from the EU, and Zimbabwe’s new re-engagement policy meant to mend fences with hostile nations, the EU has been gradually lifting its sanctions on the country.
The sanctions, targeting the economy, and individuals seen as central to decision-making in Zimbabwe, are estimated to have cost the economy up to US$100 billion over the last two decades.
Zimbabwe and the EU have since entered into formal dialogue to narrow their differences on a range of issues, with a view to normalising relations.
Meanwhile, President Mnangagwa also received credentials from three other new ambassadors from Egypt, Switzerland and Kuwait.
The new Egyptian ambassador, Salwa Mowafi said her country would pursue deeper cooperation in health, and capacity building among other areas.
The new Swiss envoy, Stephanie Rey said while current relations between Zimbabwe and Switzerland were excellent in many fields, there was scope for increased cooperation.
“We are still one of the top foreign investors in Zimbabwe in pharmaceutical, agriculture, and shoe manufacturing as you know Bata is a Swiss brand in Gweru and we will certainly do more in years to come, your Honourable President was in Switzerland this year to stimulate the Swiss-Zimbabwe trade and I can only hope that during my tenure also through the Zimbabwe-Swiss business chamber we can do even more to solidify those excellent relations,” he said.
“My door is open to every single Swiss company that is willing to do more in this country,” he said.
Kuwait’s new ambassador, Salem Shibeeb Hamad Alkaledi pledged to mobilise more funding for Zimbabwe under the Kuwait Fund for Development.
“We are looking forward to the future,” he said.