By Tafadzwa Muranganwa
The European Union ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Timo Olkkonen has vehemently refuted the allegations that EU sanctions are taking a toll on the country’s economy .
Speaking at a meeting organised by Misa Zimbabwe on Monday, Ambassador Olkkonen said he is surprised that the European bloc is consistently accused of stifling economic growth in Zimbabwe when EU only preferred restrictive measures against a few individuals and firms.
“It is wrong to cite the restrictive measures which are not sanctions by the way that we have imposed on a few individuals and companies as the reasons for ailing economy in Zimbabwe and I am actually surprised that it still remain an issue when these(restrictive measures)are insignificant,” queried the EU ambassador to Zimbabwe.
He went on to say EU is partnering significantly with government in health, agriculture and governance sector.
According to Ambassador Mr Timo Olkkonen ,the health delivery system in Zimbabwe would have plummeted to worst levels without the intervention of EU.
“You look at the health sector where we have the Health Delivery Fund which has helped immensely in improving the health sector which could have been worse without this aid,”cited Ambassador Timo Olkkonen.
The EU is also supporting agriculture and last year launched ‘Agricultural Growth Programme: Transforming Zimbabwe’s livestock based value chains for the future” in a bid to Improve economic, social and environmental performance of livestock based value chain.
The EU ambassador to Zimbabwe urged the government to explore the preferential treatment it gets from EU on trade to its advantage.
“Zimbabwe is special in that it is one of the few countries that does pay duty when exporting to EU countries hence it should take that opportunity to expand its exports,” added the former Ambassador of Finland to Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi.
The European bloc is also keen on re-alignment of laws to the 2013 Constitution and has been channelling resources towards this.
The August 1 post election and the January protests killings have marred the Zanu PF-led government’s engagement process with EU, according to Ambassador Timo Olkkonen.
“Regarding our engagement process with Zimbabwe, it is true that the post election murders of August I and the killings in January protests were major setbacks , ”revealed the diplomat.
However, Zanu PF has adamantly cited sanctions as the major impediment to the country’s economic progress.
Reacting to the announcement by EU in February of maintaining sanctions, Zanu PF spokesperson Khaya Moyo said the party’s position was that the EU should heed the calls by Sadc, AU and the generality of the international community to totally and unconditionally remove illegal sanctions in all their various forms and manifestations.