THE EUROPEAN Union (EU) has extended its remaining sanctions against Zimbabwe for another year, in a development likely to rile Harare.
The sanctions were initially introduced in February 2002 when the EU expressed grave concern at the situation in Zimbabwe “in particular at serious human rights violations by the country’s government”.
But most of the measures have been removed with Brussels resuming financial support for the crippled Zimbabwean economy.
A travel ban was however maintained against President Robert Mugabe and wife Grace to force the 92-year-old leader to implement political reforms.
It is this ban as well as penalties against top security officials and some state entities which have been extended to February 2017.
Mugabe still travels to Europe however for meetings of the United Nations and its organs.
“On 15 February 2016 the Council adopted a decision extending EU restrictive measures against Zimbabwe until 20 February 2017. The decision follows the annual review of EU restrictive measures against Zimbabwe,” reads a statement from the EU.
“The restrictive measures will continue to apply to Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe his wife Grace Mugabe and Zimbabwe Defence Industries while measures against five high ranking members of the security apparatus will remain suspended.
“Furthermore 78 persons and 8 entities against whom measures had been suspended will be removed from the list. An arms embargo will remain in place.”
The development comes at a time Mugabe expressed concern about the sanctions to a visiting United States Senate delegation.
Washington also imposed sanctions against Harare almost at the same time as the EU, accusing Mugabe of electoral fraud and human rights outrages.
The US has refused to ease its sanctions, maintaining the Mugabe regime remained a threat to its foreign policy.
Mugabe blames the sanctions for Zimbabwe’s economic problems and claims his government was punished for its controversial land reforms.
He repeated the charged after requesting a meeting with the visiting US officials in Harare on Tuesday.
“Everything went sour during Bush’s time not because we had quarrelled with America, but because they supported (Tony) Blair in efforts to reverse the land reform programme,” the veteran leader was quoted as saying by State media.
“We had followed all the steps to settle our people but when the Labour party took over, they wanted to reverse it completely and we said no, Zimbabwe was a free country.
“We had Bush imposing sanctions and we were surprised. We know they wanted to please Blair and sanctions have remained on.
“Mr Bush decided to impose sanctions on us and the Senate and Congress said yes, we deserve sanctions.”