|28 January 2002
ZIMBABWE: EU foreign ministers decide on sanctions
(BBC Radio 4):
I spoke to the European commissioner for external
relations, Chris Patten, who was at the EU foreign ministers meeting in
Brussels where the decision on sanctions was made. He told me what message the
Europeans are trying to send to president Mugabe.
(Commissioner for External Relations, European
We've been extraordinarily patient with Mr. Mugabe and his
colleagues. But there comes a point when we have to determine whether or not
he's serious and his colleagues are serious about holding fair elections and
about honouring their obligations under our development agreement with them.
So, we've said to Mr. Mugabe and his colleagues, look, by February
3rd we want it to be clear that we can have an EU observation team
in place for the elections, that the national and international media can cover
them properly and we don't want to see any further increase in violence. Unless
those conditions are met then we're sorry but we'll regard our present
consultations with you as at an end and we'll move on to sanctions. Not
sanctions targeted, it has to be said, on the people of Zimbabwe but sanctions
very specifically targeted on members of the regime.
You say move on to sanctions. Would they come in to effect
automatically on February the 3rd or
Yes, they would, I mean, we've set out very clearly what the
position would be, we'll obviously prepare the ground so that we're able to do
this but we can't hang about any longer. We're not being unreasonable about
this. We've got, I suppose, more experience than anybody of running election
observation and in order for it to be effective you need to have a sizeable
team in place at least five or six weeks before the elections take place. They
need to be properly accredited, their security needs to be guaranteed, they
need to have access to anybody they want to talk to, they need to have access
to every part of the country. Unless you can do that, you're just giving a fig
leaf to whatever the local regime wishes to do.
President Mugabe has, in fact, said today that he would be
prepared to allow EU observers in but not the British. Is that good enough?
Well, I don't think there were any British
involved last time. But let's see exactly what Mr. Mugabe and his colleagues
say. There's a slight sense of suspicion, I think, in the European Union that
they're inclined to string us along and say they'll be prepared to do things
and then when you actually look at the not-so-fine print you discover that the
promises aren't quite what you were led to expect. I haven't seen any statement
from Mr. Mugabe saying he would allow in an EU observation mission but I hope
that we get such an assurance. I hope that we're able to put an observation
mission on the ground as soon as possible. I repeat what I've said already. We
have no argument at all with the people of Zimbabwe, we feel extremely sorry
that their situation has been made so wretched by the administration and if we
have an argument it's with Mr. Mugabe and his closest pals.
But, will the threat of sanctions do anything to ensure that
there are free and fair elections, that the lives, the wretched lives as you
put it of those people in Zimbabwe are made any better?
Well, what we would most like to do is to have an observation
mission in place because we think that that would not only help to secure
elections as fair as possible but would also help to avoid violence in the
pre-election period. Make no mistake that our principal objective is to get
that observation team in place. But, if it's not allowed in to Zimbabwe then
what lesson are we supposed to draw from that? What conclusion are we supposed
to draw? It's pretty obvious, isn't it? (BBC Radio 4 on EU Website)