PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe miscalculated and overestimated his continental influence when he boycotted the fourth European Union (EU)-Africa summit hoping that other African countries would follow suit.
EU head of delegation to Zimbabwe, Aldo Dell’Ariccia yesterday told our sister paper NewsDay that the boycott was a diplomatic blunder by the 90-year-old president.
“There was a decision by Zimbabwe not to attend the EU-Africa summit thinking that other African states would back the boycott of the summit as well,” Dell’Ariccia said.
“But unfortunately, that did not happen. At the end of the day, this comes as a major diplomatic setback for Zimbabwe.”
He also described Mugabe’s decision to boycott the summit which opened in Brussels yesterday as a “hiccup” which comes at a time the continental bloc was making efforts to re-engage with Zimbabwe.
Mugabe’s wife, Grace, was denied a visa by the EU to travel to Brussels for the EU-Africa Summit and in protest, Zimbabwe boycotted the event.
The EU-Africa Summit brings together African and European leaders and is running under the theme “Investing in People, Prosperity and Peace”.
The summit will discuss issues of women and youth, education, legal and illegal migrant flows between continents, and ways to stimulate growth and job creation, among other issues.
Dell’Ariccia said it was unfortunate that Zanu PF had embarked on a campaign to discredit the summit in order to justify its stance.
“It’s unfortunate that we have a hiccup which has come as a result of the decision taken by the Zimbabwean government not to take part in the EU-Africa Summit in Brussels.
“A lot of false information has been circulated in the country to the effect that Sudan and Eritrea were not invited to the summit. However, both countries were invited as a matter of fact,” Dell’Ariccia said.
He, however, said the EU remained committed to re-engaging with Zimbabwe despite the Southern African country’s decision to snub the EU-Africa summit.
He expressed optimism that relations between Zimbabwe and the EU would soon be normalised despite the misunderstandings.
“But for us, the process of re-engagement continues and we hope that we are going to have our relations normalised soon,” he said.
This year the EU removed targeted sanctions on the remaining eight individuals in Mugabe’s inner circle and said they would resume full co-operation with Zimbabwe in November basing on events on the ground.
The bloc, however, maintained that Mugabe and his wife Grace would remain on the targeted measures list.
Dell’Ariccia reiterated the EU’s commitment to assist Zimbabwe in various sectors of the economy.