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Europe Day 2019 – and the EU Delegation to Zimbabwe celebrated yet another colourful event to mark 69 years of peace, unity in diversity, tolerance and solidarity in Europe. As per tradition the festivities had several highlights: a formal reception, an exhibition of EU-funded projects (this year's theme: addressing inequalities: building a world that leaves no one behind) and an EU Culinary Expo, supported by our Member States.
In his speech, Ambassador Timo Olkkonen reiterated the European Union’s willingness to support Zimbabwe’s reform process and expressed hope that such reforms will assist the country to steer through the economic crisis towards a more prosperous future ("Zimbabwe could be taking the elevator, not the stairs, up, and regain its status as a regional economic powerhouse"). He seized the opportunity to recount our support in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai and to counter the threat of food insecurity, but also to announce the impending launch of the Spotlight Initiative to fight gender based violence, and the resumption of political dialogue (article 8) between the EU and Zimbabwe after more than 15 years. Within the framework of an engaging speech, Ambassador Olkkonen also mentioned the deadly violence in January and its impact on the EU-Zimbabwe relations ("we must not see these events repeated").
Ambassador James Manzou, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, noted in his intervention the improving relations between the EU and Zimbabwe. He conveyed his Government’s promise that the “second republic” is distinctly different from the Mugabe era. Ambassador Manzou also thanked the bloc for its timely assistance after Cyclone Idai. Deviating from his written speech, Ambassador Manzou demanded the abolition of the remaining “sanctions”.
The 500 guests were treated to a buzzing programme: an exhibition of eleven EU-funded projects under the theme “Addressing inequalities: building a world that leaves no on behind” showcased the work we do without partners in Zimbabwe, and the traditional EU Culinary Expo seduced the guests’ senses with appetising delicacies from 16 EU Member States. In the aftermath of Cyclone Idai, we presented updates on the relief efforts and invited guests to contribute further, and we offered a sneak preview of the latest fashion by Zimbabwean designers, made from recycled plastic, just in time before it hit the European market. European beer and African music rounded off the atmosphere and contributed to an afternoon of pleasure. A guest summed it up: “Your Europe Day is the best national day in Zimbabwe. This year, every year!”