By: CHRIS GRAEME
BOTH PORTUGUESE Prime Minister José Sócrates and German Chancellor Angela Merkel placed human rights and democracy at the top of the agenda at the first day of the European Union-Africa Summit in Lisbon on Saturday.
In his welcome speech to 80 heads of state and high officials from the two continents, José Sócrates went straight to the heart of the matter of human rights abuses in both Zimbabwe and Darfur.
“This summit was put off for too long, and we all know why. For a number of years, relations between the European Union and Zimbabwe made it impossible due to the serious situation in that country.”
The German Chancellor, who was chosen as EU spokesperson to voice concerns over Zimbabwe, said that Mr. Mugabe’s policies in that country had damaged Africa.
“The situation in Zimbabwe concerns us all, in Europe as in Africa, and we don’t have the right to look away when human rights are trampled on,” she said.
José Sócrates said there was an urgent duty to re-launch political dialogue between Europe and Africa and that was why he had made the decision to hold the summit.
He said that a new Joint Strategy required a dialogue without taboos in which no subject was prohibited. “Firstly, peace and security. It is up to us to open a window of hope for the dreadful drama of refugees and of the tragedies unfolding in Darfur and Somalia,” he said.
“Secondly, governance and human rights. We cannot remain indifferent to the drama of desperate immigration that destroys lives and families. We must be able to regulate these migratory flows together,” he stressed.
Mr. Mugabe, who has yet to respond to the pointed comments, was late for an official dinner for the 80 guests at the Ajuda National Palace on Saturday night hosted by Portuguese President Cavaco Silva, causing protocol to be broken and the dinner to be started without him.
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