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Volume 550: debated on Tuesday 11 September 2012

Following discussions between the UK and its EU partners, the EU announced on 23 July its decision to suspend with immediate effect the restrictions on appropriate measures covering EU development assistance and indicated that it would respond to a peaceful and credible constitutional referendum in Zimbabwe with a suspension of the majority of EU restrictive measures on all but a small core of individuals around President Mugabe, particularly those who will most directly influence the potential of violence in the next election.

This followed the EU announcement in February 2012, where 51 people and 20 companies were removed from the list of those subject to an EU visa ban and asset freeze on the grounds that they were no longer involved in human rights abuses and in recognition of progress made so far in Zimbabwe and regionally in preparation for credible and peaceful elections in Zimbabwe. In February 2011, thirty-five people were removed from the list following significant progress in addressing the economic crisis in Zimbabwe and improving the delivery of social services.

There has been further progress in the last six months in Zimbabwe, including on the drafting of a new constitution; legislative progress such as the Electoral Amendment Bill and Human Rights Commission Bill being passed; and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) under the leadership of President Zuma reiterating their commitment to facilitate agreement among the parties in Zimbabwe on creating an environment conducive to the holding of free and fair elections. There have been continuing calls for the EU’s restrictive measures to be suspended in order to further support the reform process including from all parties to the inclusive Government, SADC and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Our aim is clear; we want to support the process towards free and fair elections in Zimbabwe. A peaceful and credible constitutional referendum would represent an important step along that path and it is right that the EU responds appropriately. The proposed move is not an endorsement of the content of the draft constitution itself but will demonstrate to reformers across the political spectrum that the EU is serious about responding to real progress on the ground and reflects our confidence in the facilitation process being undertaken by President Zuma and the leaders of SADC.

It also puts the onus on Zimbabwe to live up to their commitments. The constitution making process has been and continues to be, much delayed and the way forward is uncertain. The international community is monitoring developments closely. We will ensure there is a robust review process following any EU move on measures and that the EU has the ability to respond appropriately should the situation deteriorate.

Britain remains a committed friend to the people of Zimbabwe. UK aid to Zimbabwe in the 2011-12 financial year was £89 million—our largest ever programme. The funds are being delivered through multilateral partners and civil society partners and the EU decision on appropriate measures has no impact on the UK aid programme. Between 2011 and 2015 UK aid to Zimbabwe will provide almost 1 million more people with clean water, give more than 700,000 women access to family planning, create 125,000 new jobs and help 80,000 children complete primary education.