EU to continue supporting Zimbabwe

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EUROPEAN Union Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Timo Olkkonen has said food aid must not be politicised as this goes against the principles of humanitarian aid.

Amb Olkkonen said this while addressing journalists in Bulawayo last week following a three-day visit to check on progress of EU projects and to also discuss possible investment opportunities.

“As the EU, its very clear, we cannot accept any politicisation of humanitarian aid and this is a point we have put across to Government, just last week we had a humanitarian mission and we passed on this message and it’s very important to us,” he said.

“This is not only because we are using tax payers money but also because it would be against the principles of humanitarian aid which states that we need to target the neediest and that it has to be impartial. We have heard these claims about politicised aid and for us we are monitoring the use of EU humanitarian support closely.”

Amb Olkkonen said humanitarian aid was becoming a prominent issue for the EU in Zimbabwe.

“Just last week we announced the 18,7 million Euro grant for humanitarian aid and we want to support the country in these difficult times,” he said.

He said Zimbabwe and the EU were now on good standing.

“We have had a troubled past in the last 20 years or so, but we have a good relation in terms of discussing emerging issues. There are issues of concern in Zimbabwe by the EU and we are consulting with Zimbabwe,” he said.

He said there were more areas that EU and Zimbabwe can find common ground.

“With the City of Bulawayo and all other local authorities, we are supporting the devolution exercise and we have capacity building for this. We are training the local authority to have more responsibility. My visit was also linked to business opportunities in the city and how we can recreate the industry in Bulawayo and get it going,” he noted.

He said EU will continue to support Zimbabwe.

“The EU projects are going to continue running because their funding has already been set aside so while we wait for the next phase of funding we have to plan for the future. We cannot make any new commitments for any new projects as funding has not been availed yet. The running projects are doing so until their logical conclusion,” Amb Olkkonen.

During his stay, Amb Olkkonen visited a project that EU is supporting together with other partners called the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund which is being implemented by the UNDP and other NGOs. He said it was an important project as it was addressing climate change through drought mitigating initiatives.

Amb Olkkonen said they have started evaluation of projects supported by the bloc from 2014. Turning to Brexit, where UK is in the process of pulling out of EU, the Ambassador said there would be no major changes.

“I don’t foresee any major changes coming out of Brexit, I can’t forsee a major game changer in anyway in the Zimbabwean relations with the EU. The UK will remain a very important partner for the EU. It will have an influence obviously on the budget for the EU and the corresponding development corporations,” he predicted.-sundaynews.co.zw

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