HARARE, Feb 17 –The European Union remains a crucial development partner to Zimbabwe which has contributed immensely towards poverty eradication and economic transformation of the country, a cabinet Minister said on Monday.

Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa said this at e function where the EU was extending 234 million Euros (about $270 million) to the Zimbabwe government under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF, 2014-2020) to be utilized in various sectors of the economy.

Chinamasa said the event was a significant step towards normalization of relations between the EU and Zimbabwe.

“It would be the first time since 2002 that the EU is engaging the government of Zimbabwe directly with development assistance funds being channeled through Treasury and not through NGOs as was the case before,” he said.

“Let me re-affirm government’s commitment to the Zimbabwe –EU co-operation and successful implementation of the NIP,” he said.

Chinamasa urged the EU, which has removed economic sanctions on some government officials and entities, to also remove President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace from the embargo to foster better ties.

“Zimbabwe incorporated has a chief executive and as long as the chief executive remains under sanctions our relations remain poisoned and unproductive,” he said.

The funds will be utilized under the National Indicative Program (NIP), a joint framework between the government of Zimbabwe and the EU that will guide formulation and implementation of projects funded under the EDF.

About EUR 88 million will be channeled towards the health sector, another EUR 88 million will be directed to the agriculture sector while EUR 45 million will be used on governance and institutional capacity building.

Civil society, the national authorizing office and technical services would get EUR 6 million, EUR 3 million and EUR 4 million respectively.

Speaking at the same event, EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Philippe Van Damme said despite political differences of the past the EU was more than ready to normalize relations with Zimbabwe.

He pledged more dialogue and engagement with Zimbabwe, which missed out on the 9th and 10th edition of the EDF due to sanctions imposed on Harare.

“The will and commitment has always been there to search for common strategies,” he said.

Van Damme said the EU was ready to provide at least half of the pledged funds this year.

The EDF is the main instrument for EU aid for development cooperation with the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group and is funded with contributions from the EU member states.

The NIP is complemented by additional thematic and regional programs in fields that include trade and regional integration, peace and security, natural resource management, support to civil society and human rights.

SOURCE: New Ziana