HARARE-- The European Union (EU) says it is eager to mend relations with Zimbabwe but stresses that the success of the re-engagement process is highly dependent on the ability of Harare to deliver free, fair and credible elections later this year, says EU Commissioner for International Co-operation and Development Neven Mimica.

Relations between the EU and Zimbabwe have been strained for almost two decades because of differences over a land reform programme implemented by the administration of foremer president Robert Mugabe to address colonial-era land ownership imbalances.

The differences led the EU to impose sanctions and a massive cut in foreign direct investment (FDI) from those countries. However, since the advent of the new government under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the EU has started to soften its stance against Zimbabwe, in a show of confidence in the new administration and its ideas.

Mimica, who is the first high-ranking EU official to visit Zimbabwe since 2009, said here Monday the bloc was looking forward to normalizing relations.

My visit comes at the highest political level after 2009 but this only demonstrates that the European Union would like to be a reliable partner of Zimbabwe in the process of the historical, political, democratic and economic transition, he told journalists after a lengthy meeting with President Mnangagwa.

This is a process that the European Union would like to engage on, to support and to accompany Zimbabwe's authorities. We discussed it with the President. We agreed that this process should also start first with fair and free elections in order to legitimize the whole reform process that is in front of Zimbabwe.

We look positively to the period in front of us and we would like to support Zimbabwe along the lines of reforms that would actually open the space for a new Zimbabwe, democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe.

President Mnangagwa has promised to hold free, fair and credible elections, and to buttress this promise, the government has for the first time in over a decade invited election observers from the United Nations and EU.

Acting Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services Simon Khaya-Moyo said the meeting had been productive, with discussions focusing on political and economic issues.

The two sides discussed the coming elections and the President was very clear that these are going to be credible, he added. "We want elections which are free and fair and the delegation was invited to meet anybody who they wish to meet in the country because we have nothing to hide, said Khaya-Moyo.

The EU would be sending another delegation to Zimbabwe which would focus more on areas of economic co-operation. In the end it was quite clear that the EU delegation was very impressed by what is happening in the country and efforts the new government is taking, so they will be sending another delegation later on obviously this will now be to focus on specific areas in terms of economic co-operation.