Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has arrived in Lisbon, Portugal, ahead of this weekend’s EU-Africa summit. He is banned from the EU, but was let in after African leaders threatened to stay away if he was not invited. UK PM Gordon Brown, who is critical of Mr Mugabe’s human rights record, is boycotting the summit in protest.
EU President Jose Manuel Barroso has criticized Mr Brown’s decision, saying that leaders sometimes have to meet people they disapprove of. “If you are an international leader then you are going to have to be prepared to meet some people your mother would not like you to meet. That is what we have to do from time to time,” he said.
The president of the European parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering, expressed his hope that Mr Mugabe’s presence would not overshadow the summit. “The presence of one person is a fact, but the relations between Africa and the European Union are more important than the presence of this person,” he said.
The highlight of the two-day summit will be the launch of a “new strategic partnership” between the EU and Africa to tackle issues such as development, good governance, peace, security, migration, energy and climate change.
EU aid for improvements to roads, bridges, telecommunications is set to rise to 5.6bn euros in 2008-2013, up from 3.75bn in 2002-2007. The EU will also be attempting to draw up a number of new trade agreements with individual African countries and regional blocs, ahead of a World Trade Organization deadline at the end of the year, after which the current preferential trade agreement between the EU and the 78-nation Africa, Caribbean and Pacific group will cease to operate. Although Gordon Brown is boycotting the summit, the UK will be represented by the former International Development Secretary, Baroness Amos.