Documents considered by the Committee on 21 January 2009 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

16 Restrictive measures against Zimbabwe


Common Position amending Common Position 2008/135/CFSP renewing restrictive measures against Zimbabwe

Legal baseArticle 15 EU; unanimity
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of considerationEM of 15 January 2009
Previous Committee ReportNone; but see 29110 HC 16-xxix (2007-08), chapter 12 (10 September 2008)
Discussed in Council26/27 January 2009 General Affairs and External Relations Council
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared


16.1 In 2004 the EU adopted Common Position 2004/161/CFSP. This imposed an arms embargo, assets freeze and travel ban, with certain exemptions on Zimbabwe. Council Common Position 2008/135/CFSP, adopted on 18 February 2008, extended Common Position 2004/161/CFSP until 20 February 2009. The new Common Position did not include any amendments or additional measures; the Annex listing the individuals subject to targeted measures was updated (two names were added; the names of two individuals amended; the name of one deceased individual was removed).

16.2 The objective of these restrictive measures is to encourage the targeted persons to reject policies that lead to suppression of human rights, of the freedom of expression and of good governance. The measures are to be monitored and modified as necessary according to whether the objectives have been met in the context of political developments in Zimbabwe.

16.3 In the first part of 2008, the EU and wider international community condemned the events in Zimbabwe surrounding the Presidential elections.

16.4 Most recently, in an Explanatory Memorandum of 26 August 2008, the then Minister for Europe at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Jim Murphy) said that a further package of targeted measures was needed "to provide an incentive to the Mugabe regime to engage earnestly on a mediated political process leading to free and fair elections"; the 22 July GAERC had accordingly adopted Common Position 2008/632/CFSP which:

—  harmonised the criteria for the asset freeze and travel ban which were different in Common Position 2004/161/CFSP;

—  tightened the exemptions to the travel ban to make it more difficult for designated individuals to attend inter-governmental meetings in Europe; and

—  listed a further 37 individuals and, for the first time, 4 entities who will be subject to the targeted measures.

16.5 The Minister recalled that, in April 2008, EU partners had agreed to discuss a further package of measures should the situation in Zimbabwe deteriorate. He regarded this further agreement as important, by signalling to the Zimbabwean regime that the EU represented a united front and were prepared to take further measures if no progress on the democratic process was reached; failure to agree this follow-up would have been interpreted by the Zimbabwean regime as a weakening of the EU position and would have been capitalised upon, especially since attempts to get sanctions imposed against Zimbabwe at the UN were vetoed by China and Russia.

16.6 The Minister stated that the UK had pressed for tough new sanctions on Zimbabwe following the "stolen election" in March 2008; discussions in Brussels had not been "straightforward", but the Common Position represented a first step in this process. The Government strongly supported the designation of further individuals associated with the Zimbabwean regime and its campaign of violence during the election campaign; all were specifically targeted because of their involvement in repressive policies or activities in Zimbabwe (which included beatings, torture, corruption and misappropriation of resources); and the new listings showed that the EU was prepared to act against those that actively disrupted the democratic process. The UK had led in discussions at the EU to act for the first time against entities associated with the regime; targeting them would maintain pressure on the regime to engage in serious negotiation.

16.7 At that time, the then Minister felt that it was still too early to gauge the impact of the recently extended travel ban and assets freeze on further individuals and entities; however, he felt that "the fact that Mr Mugabe is even negotiating with the opposition leader does show that he is reacting to international pressure". Stating that the UK had "led the debate in the EU to tighten the restrictions to the travel ban exemptions", and that this debate "was complicated because Member States which host international organisations have obligations to permit access under international law", the then Minister said that while the Government "did not achieve the blanket ban we were seeking … we did succeed in making attendance at future inter-governmental meetings in Europe subject to a consensus decision making procedure."[76] The Government had also, he said, "again pressed hard for the GAERC conclusions[77] to threaten further appropriate measures in September if there is no improvement to the situation on the ground"; the Government favoured "tougher sanctions targeted on the economic interests of the regime" and would "use upcoming Ministerial opportunities to secure support for this approach if there is no progress in the mediation process." The Government was also "considering the feasibility of disrupting the operation of specific regime front companies", which he defined as "parastatals that have direct links to the Government of Mugabe and are engaged in active support for his policies". The then Minister concluded by noting that:

    "To date, an agreement has yet to be reached in the mediation talks between Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai. Should there be no agreement, we believe pursuing further measures in the autumn represents the best realistic option for applying pressure on the regime."

16.8 Following its meeting on 22 July 2008 (on which day the House rose for the summer recess), the Committee wrote to the Minister, acknowledging the need for further targeted measures, having been forewarned by him on 18 July 2008 of the likelihood of such measures being adopted at the 22 July GAERC.

16.9 At its meeting on 10 September 2008, the Committee subsequently cleared 2008/632/CFSP, which it reported to the House because of the widespread interest in the situation in Zimbabwe.

The draft Common Position

16.10 In her Explanatory Memorandum of 15 January 2009, the Minister for Europe at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Caroline Flint) recalls the "stolen election" in Zimbabwe in March 2008 and the subsequent Government pressure for further targeted restrictive measures to be imposed on Zimbabwe. The Minister says that:

    "After a proposed power-sharing deal in late Summer 2008, the EU refrained from imposing further measures to permit progress to be made between Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai. However little progress has been made, and the social, economic and humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated.

    "The draft Common Position extends the restrictive measures (arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban) for a further year. It also lists a number of individuals and entities associated with the Zimbabwean regime who have contributed to, or are complicit in, activities that seriously undermine democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law. For all those listed, it has been considered necessary and proportionate to impose financial and travel restrictions — and where entities have been designated, it has been assessed that the restrictions will have minimal economic impact on ordinary Zimbabweans and could not justifiably be portrayed as 'economic sanctions'."

16.11 The Minister concludes by saying that the draft Common Position is due to be considered at the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 26 and 27 January 2009.


16.12 Although no questions arise, we are reporting this further extension because of the widespread interest in the House in developments in Zimbabwe.

16.13 We now clear the document.

76   In a separate letter to our counterparts in the House of Lords, the Minister explained that Member States may now only justify granting exemptions from the travel ban on the grounds of: urgent and compelling humanitarian need; or, in exceptional circumstances, on the grounds of attending intergovernmental meetings, including those promoted by the EU, where a political dialogue is conducted which will make a direct, immediate and significant contribution to democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Zimbabwe. Back

77   Available at; see pages 11-13. Back

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