EU to reject Mugabe’s ambassadors

Robert Mugabe

Robert Mugabe

A consensus is emerging among the EU institutions to reject Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's ambassadors-designate to the European Union, after the country's prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, called on the bloc not to recognise Mugabe's unilateral appointment.

President Mugabe appointed Zimbabwe's new envoys to the EU, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, South Africa and the UN without consulting Tsvangirai – prime minister since January 2009 and leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.

The normal procedure everywhere in the world is that ambassadors are designated by the government and approved by the head of state. Then, the countries of their destination have the right to accept the appointment or reject it.

Tsvangirai, whose party shares power with Mugabe's Zanu-PF in a unity government, wrote to the EU and UN this week urging them not to recognise the choices, made solely by Mugabe. The unilateral appointments, he argues, contradict the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that established the power-sharing government last year.

MEPs, headed by Geoffrey Van Orden of the European Conservatives and Reformists, will call on Commission President José Manuel Barroso and Council President Herman Van Rompuy to heed Tsvangirai's request by rejecting Mugabe's choice for Brussels, Margaret Muchada.

"As PM Tsvangirai has stated, Mrs. Muchada's credentials must be refused, as her appointment is clearly unconstitutional," said the British MEP, who leads the Parliament's campaign for democratic change in Zimbabwe.

"As PM Tsvangirai's recent statements illustrate, not much seems to have changed on the ground following the signing of the 'Global Political Agreement' two years ago […] Key elements of the Zimbabwean state – in this instance one of Zimbabwe's most important diplomatic postings – are still controlled by Mugabe, in outright contravention of the GPA," Van Orden said.

"Until Mugabe and his cronies step aside and there is real evidence of change, the EU and its member states must keep up the pressure on Mugabe. I would urge Mr. Barroso and Mr. Van Rompuy to send a clear signal to the Mugabe clique that the EU does not tolerate despots," he added.

EU: Envoy row 'a serious matter'

On Wednesday (13 October), a spokesperson for EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton affirmed that the EU is taking the envoy row very seriously.

"It is important that the ambassadors be fully empowered to speak on behalf of the whole government," said Maja Kocijancic, quoted by AFP.

"The EU supports the GPA. Non-respect is therefore a matter of great concern," she added. "This is a serious matter that demands clarification."

Since the government was formed in January 2009, relations between the two leaders have been strained over the appointment of state figures, such as governors and the attorney general. Tsvangirai recently accused Mugabe of "betrayal" for failing to honour the unity pact.

In a letter sent to European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and Council President Herman Van Rompuy, UK MEP Geoffrey Van Orden (European Conservatives and Reformists) urged the two to refuse the credentials of Robert Mugabe's proposed ambassador to the Union.

''Mrs Muchada is part of a group of six Ambassadors that were appointed by Mr Mugabe on 24 July of this year without any such consultation with Mr Tsvangirai. Her appointment, as well as that of her five colleagues, is thus in direct contravention of the Zimbabwean Constitution and the GPA,'' he stated in the letter, sent on Thursday (14 October).

''I would therefore urge you both to send a clear signal to Mr Mugabe and his supporters that the EU will not tolerate such blatant disregard for due constitutional process and refuse to accept Mrs Muchada's credentials as Zimbabwean Ambassador to the EU,'' he concluded.

Robert Mugabe has been president of Zimbabwe since 1980.

From the end of the 90s, Zimbabwe has been in steep decline, following land expropriations challenged as unconstitutional and crackdowns on illegal markets and homes, resulting in massive food and housing shortages.

In 2002, amid allegations of fraud during his re-election and human rights concerns, the EU adopted restrictive measures towards the Zimbabwean government and imposed a travel ban on Mugabe.

During the EU-Africa summit in Lisbon in December 2007, the EU did not bar President Mugabe from attending, despite the sanctions against him. His presence was heavily criticised by human rights groups.

In March 2008, Zimbabwe held a contested presidential election. In September 2008 a power-sharing agreement was reached, according to which Mugabe remained president and Morgan Tsvangirai became prime minister.

It is estimated that the Mugabe regime is responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans.

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