PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma told European leaders yesterday the crisis at Marikana had come out of the blue, but foreign investors should be reassured at the way SA had handled the episode.

"Certainly we regarded the incident of Marikana as an unfortunate one. Nobody expected such an event," Mr Zuma said at the end of a one-day summit between the European Union (EU) and SA which was dominated by trade talks.

At a news conference in Brussels with Mr Zuma, Herman van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, registered growing concerns abroad about mining violence in SA.

"The events at the Marikana mine were a tragedy and I welcome the judicial commission of inquiry set up by President Zuma," Mr van Rompuy said, after emphasising what he said was SA’s growing political role, regionally and globally.

SA is one of only 10 nations with which the EU has what are called strategic partnerships. The 27-nation bloc is the dominant foreign investor in SA, providing about 75% of all foreign direct investment.

Even if Pretoria’s view is that tomorrow belongs to the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA), Europe is still the big player today.

Mr Zuma chose his words carefully for the set-piece event with Mr van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, the powerful bureaucracy driving the EU and its other institutions.

EU trade commissioner Karel de Gucht said on Monday that Europe had experienced numerous strikes, but the problem in Marikana was that so many were killed in what he referred to as an ambush.

"I realise that this is a social conflict, this is completely within the remit of the South African legislation and the South African political system. But we are … deeply troubled by the fact of all these dead victims."

Judging by discussions in Brussels, the top priority in the EU-SA relationship was finalising an Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and the Southern African Development Community.