NEXT week's EU-Africa summit in Lisbon will be the first since 2000. In the interim repeated attempts to hold another have foundered over the problem of Zimbabwe's presence; in 2002 the EU put in place sanctions after President Mugabe refused to allow EU observers to be present at elections. Portugal, which holds the EU presidency until the end of the year, decided to try again, while indicating to other African countries that it would prefer Zimbabwe not to attend the summit. The hint has been ignored and Mugabe will be there. The 14-nation Southern African Development Community told the Portuguese that if Zimbabwe was not invited the meeting would be off. The Community's executive secretary said, “We will not go to Lisbon to discuss Zimbabwe because the summit is about relations between the EU and Africa.” However, since the Portuguese say the agenda includes governance, human rights and poverty it is difficult to see how these subjects could be adequately addressed without a passing reference to Zimbabwe's experience. On poverty, perhaps President Mugabe himself will make a contribution about his country's inflation, currently running at 14'800 per cent. If he does Gordon Brown will not be there to hear it. He is standing by his earlier decision to boycott the summit if Mugabe is among those present; the UK's minister for Africa, Mark Malloch Brown, will attend instead.


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