Europe is stepping up its actions to develop privileged relations with Tunisia longing to secure a reliable partner in North Africa that could spearhead the development in the Southern Neighbourhood countries.
The EU signed almost simultaneously additional €500 million financial assistance for the economy and granted Tunisia full access to its €1.46 billion cultural and audiovisual fund. €60 million are to be given to the authorities in the Mediterranean country to reduce inequalities in regional development.
The Union hailed the government reforms plan and “welcomed the unprecedented nature of the Tunisian democratic experience” during the thirteen session of the EU-Tunisia Association Council held in Brussels on 11 May.
The Mediterranean country is the first among the 17 neighborhood policy partners, which was given access to the Creative Europe, the EU program dedicated to movies and TV programs production, organization of festivals, literary translations and training for cultural and creative professionals. Apart from the EU states, few candidate and EEA countries, Tunisia is the first on the African continent to be let in the culture club of Europe.
Creative Europe is not the only EU program at disposal of the EU favorite southern neighbor with €10 million pledged for student exchange under the Erasmus+, which will allow 1500 students and teachers to travel to Europe.
The EU decided last year to increase its bilateral financial aid for 2017 under the European Neighbourhood Instrument to €300 million, and to maintain an equivalent level of funding for 2018-2020.
Moreover, the European Commission is finalising preparations for a special trade mission to Tunisia in the coming months. The industry and entrepreneurship commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska is putting together a large group of businessmen to explore investment opportunities in Tunisia.
The EU will work to improve export and investment perspectives to Tunisian producers and will engage in promoting Tunisian start-ups, energy efficiency and renewable energy through favourable lending from the European Investment Bank, EIB.
Since the 2011 revolution, Tunisia has been a ray of hope for our common region. It has been a beacon for change and for the aspirations of the Mediterranean people. Today, Tunisia needs to consolidate what it has achieved over the past few years. The change initiated in Tunisia must continue, and we, as Europeans, stand alongside the Tunisians and the young people of Tunisia, who are the country’s great wealth, every step of the way, the
EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini said.
This European generosity comes is not only a response to Tunisian achievements in implementing the partnership program with the EU. The EU and international humanitarian organisations rely on Tunisia as an avant-garde base for their activities in Libya. Due to security instability there, even the EU delegation in Libya is grounded in neighbouring Tunisia.
Europe depends on Tunisia, as a neighbouring country, to engage in efforts to stabilise Libya. The initiative launched by president Beji Caid Essebsi this winter was discussed in Brussels but the EU side didn’t engage officially with it. The idea of the Tunisian president is to gather Algerian and Egyptian governments for mediation among the many Libyan political players.
Tunisia is not a worrying source of migration to Europe. Only 0,5% of irregular migrants coming in 2016 through the Central Mediterranean route departed from Tunisia.
The EU is offering the country to define a common vision for the proper management of migration flows in exchange of its assistance, but Tunisia remains reluctant to welcome more refugees and migrants either returning from Europe, or from the more insecure North African countries around. The EU hopes also to start negotiations on readmission agreement with Tunisia.
The EU supports the ambitious 5-year plan of reforms recently adopted by the Tunisian parliament. Europe hopes the new reforms agenda will push the negotiations on the free trade agreement, launched in October 2013, pointing out the modernisation of Tunisian economy, administration should go together with the trade talks.
The EU is determined to help Tunisia to make success of its reform program. However, the plan is one thing, the adoption – another. The real challenge is to implement it”, says European Neighborhood Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn
Joint Declaration on the EU – Tunisia Association Council
EU assistance to Tunisia and areas of cooperation
First report on the state of the EU – Tunisia relations (in French)
Summary on the Report on EU – Tunisia relations (in English)
EU – Tunisia relations – Facts and Figures