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Written Answers. - EU Foreign Policy.

Wednesday, 6 February 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 547 No. 4

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 102. Mr. Spring Information on Dick Spring Zoom on Dick Spring  asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen  if the Government will take a lead in the formulation of EU policy relating to Zimbabwe and call for sanctions against that country. [3853/02]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen Ireland has taken a strong forward position in the formation of EU policy in relation to the actions of the Government of Zimbabwe which have involved human rights violations and the undermining of democracy in that country. On 11 January 2002, the EU and Zimbabwe met in Brussels for consultations to address the following five areas of concern previously set out by the General Affairs Council on 25 June 2001 – an end to political violence, an invitation to the EU to support and observe the presidential election on 9-10 March, and the need for a free and fair election, concrete action to protect the freedom of the mass media, independence of the judiciary, and an end to the illegal occupation of properties.

In particular, the EU asked for an immediate invitation to the EU to observe the presidential election, and for urgent action by Zimbabwe to permit full national and international media coverage of it. The Zimbabwean delegation, which included the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Mudenge, expressed a willingness to go some way towards meeting the EU concerns, which Mr. Mudenge subsequently confirmed in writing. However, serious violations of human rights have continued to occur in the intervening period and little progress has been made in allowing access for international observers and the media.

Consequently, the General Affairs Council on 28 January decided to close its consultations with Zimbabwe and implement targeted sanctions if the Government of Zimbabwe prevents the deployment of an EU observation mission start[1600] ing by 3 February 2002, or if it later prevents the mission from operating effectively. Likewise, if the Government of Zimbabwe prevents the international media from having free access to cover the election, or there is a serious deterioration in the situation on the ground, in terms of worsening of the human rights situation or attacks on the opposition, or the election is assessed as not being free and fair.

Regrettably, an invitation to the EU in its own right to observe the election was not forthcoming by the deadline of 3 February. Zimbabwe has stated that the EU will receive an invitation on 5 or 6 February, but has not specified the date or the conditions under which the mission can deploy. The EU is currently considering its position. While we have a strong interest in ensuring that the presidential election campaign, and the election itself, are independently observed, we must consider whether the imposition of targeted sanctions against Zimbabwe is now necessary, in accordance with the conclusions of the GAC on 28 January.

Ireland has actively supported the decision of the General Affairs Council to move to the conditional imposition of sanctions against Zimbabwe if it does not take action inter alia to invite the EU to observe the presidential election, to allow full media coverage, to ensure a free and fair election, to do its utmost to halt political violence, and to ensure that the human rights of all Zimbabweans are respected.

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