HARARE-- The Zimbabwe government and the European Union (EU) Delegation in Harare have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to pave the way for the EU to deploy an Election

Observation Mission (EOM) to Zimbabwe for the general election which is expected shortly.

This signing of the MoU here Monday follows an invitation extended by the government to the EU to observe the elections which are due to be held between July and August. For nearly two decades Zimbabwe had barred the EU from observing elections in the country, accusing the bloc of bias in favour of the opposition.

The MoU outlines the rights and obligations of the EU Election Observation Mission (EOM) and obliges the observers to maintain strict impartiality, objectivity and independence in the conduct of their mandate. The observers are also bound by the codes of conduct for EU election observers and for international election observers and will act in accordance with the Constitution and laws of Zimbabwe.

In addition to observing the run-up to the elections and Election Day itself, the EOM will also monitor electoral complaints that may be lodged after the elections, said the EU in a statement. The EU observers will be deployed nationwide. The long-term presence of the Observation Mission will allow it to make an impartial and comprehensive assessment of the electoral process and environment, as well as of the conduct of the elections themselves.

The EU has already said it is eager to mend relations with Zimbabwe, but insists that the success of the re-engagement process was highly dependent on the ability of Harare to deliver a free, fair and credible election.

EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe Philippe Van Damme said the deployment of the EOM was significant and provided additional support to the country's democratization process.

The EU welcomes the commitment of the government to peaceful, peaceful, credible, inclusive, and transparent elections, he said at Monday's MoU signing ceremony. It is vitally important that an electoral environment is created conducive to freedom of expression, freedom of the media and freedom of assembly.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Sibusiso Moyo signed on behalf of Zimbabwe.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has on numerous occasions pledged to hold free, fair and credible elections, and to buttress this promise, the government has opened the election to scrutiny even from countries previously hostile to Zimbabwe.