25th May 2020

EU told not to meddle in Africa summit invite list

Plans by the Portuguese EU presidency to host the first EU–Africa summit in seven years are running into difficulties over Zimbabwe.

African nations have urged Europe not to meddle in its summit delegation list and to handle Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe's attendance "sensitively".

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"Africa won't move on the position that you cannot determine who constitutes the African delegation", Aziz Pahad from the South Africa's ministry of foreign affairs said on Wednesday (5 July).

"Today it's Zimbabwe. Tomorrow it could be us or another country", the deputy foreign minister added, according to AFP.

The summit between the two continents is scheduled for 8–9 December, but the issue of how to deal with Zimbabwean authoritarian president is casting a long shadow over the event.

Robert Mugabe, in power since his country's independence in 1980, currently has an EU travel ban against him. The red light was issued in 2002, after his ruling Zanu–PF party won in what the EU considers a rigged election.

Several African nations have threatened to boycott the highest political meeting if Mr Mugabe is not allowed to attend, whilst on the European side, some capitals – particularly London – are likely to oppose his presence at the summit.

It is not the first time the issue has caused a severe diplomatic headache. The same row indefinitely postponed a summit scheduled for 2003.

Earlier this week, Portuguese prime-minister Jose Socrates said he was sure to find "appropriate diplomatic formulae" so that the meeting – designed to boost mutual ties and discuss topical issues such as immigration and development – could take place.

Some have suggested that the African Union, not the EU, should formally invite Mr Mugabe, with the Europeans hoping he will turn down the offer and not attend.

South Africa itself – the home to estimated three millions of Zimbabwean political and economic refugees – has shown deep concerns over its neighbour's prospects.

"Inflation is estimated at 5,000 percent a year. The currency has all but collapsed. There is no new investment apart from some mining operations and unemployment is rising", South Africa's Aziz Pahad was cited as saying by AFP.

"We are concerned that this is not in the interests of the people of Zimbabwe", he added.

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