/ 25 October 2007

EU official: Can’t exclude Mugabe for being a dictator

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe cannot be excluded from the upcoming European Union-Africa summit just because he is a dictator, or others must be barred too, EU Development Commissioner Louis Michel said Wednesday.

”If we were to judge each of the dictators or personalities whom we consider unsuitable we wouldn’t just have problems with Mugabe, there would be others,” Michel told the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The possibility that Mugabe could attend the EU summit in Lisbon in December has been a focus of Brussels’ attention for weeks, not least because he is formally banned from entering the European Union due to human rights violations.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has already warned his EU partners that if Mugabe attends the summit then neither he nor any of his Cabinet ministers will be there.

The same issue resulted in the EU-Africa summit being cancelled in 2003.

”I have heard the incantatory calls to denounce Mugabe, I can also say that that changes nothing,” said Michel.

”We don’t … have the right to say to our African friends ‘you can invite anyone you like except him’,” he added.

The EU commissioner stressed that South Africa was ”making considerable efforts” to solve the problem in everyone’s interests.

Michel said the summit should be used as an opportunity to put the question of human rights in Zimbabwe on the table.

Earlier this month the EU’s Portuguese presidency said that the summit invitations would not be sent out until after an EU-Africa ministerial meeting in Accra on October 30.

While Europe is increasingly in competition with China over African ties, trade, investment and influence there has so far been just one EU-Africa summit, in Cairo in 2000. – AFP