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Monday, September 25, 2023

EU and Tunisia agree on ‘strategic’ immigration and economic measures


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On Sunday, Tunisia and the European Union agreed to a “strategic partnership” that would support the North African nation through its severe economic challenges while putting a strong emphasis on the battle against illegal immigration.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, hailed the agreement as allowing Tunisia to “invest in shared prosperity” and cited “five pillars” that included the crucial issue of migration.

The main entry point for thousands of migrants travelling across the central Mediterranean to Europe is Tunisia, along with Libya.

Following the group’s initial visit, which was a month ago and during which they proposed this alliance, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte followed the European leader.

The five pillars are: “trade and investment, macroeconomic stability, Migration and mobility, the transition to green energy, and people-to-people connections, according to a press statement from the Commission.

A thrilled Mrs. Meloni, who has asked Tunisian President Kais Saied to attend a meeting on migration in Rome the following Sunday, described the Memorandum of Understanding as “another important step towards tackling the migration crisis in an integrated way.”

They also decided to give €65 million in funding to 80 schools and to expand the Erasmus exchange programme to Tunisia.

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The European leaders brought up Tunisia’s involvement in initiatives for an electrical line and an undersea fiber-optic cable to connect the two shores of the Mediterranean.

The EU is eager to promote the development of renewable energies, Mrs. von der Leyen emphasised.

that has “enormous potential” in the Maghreb.

The relationship between Tunisia and the European Union (EU), in Ms Meloni’s words, “can be seen as a model for the establishment of new relations with North Africa.”

Mr. Rutte believed that the agreement would allow for “better control of irregular immigration” in terms of immigration.

President Saied called for “a collective agreement on inhumane immigration and (forced) displacement operations by criminal networks” in his presentation to his peers on this subject.

  • New methods of collaboration

Mr. Saied pleaded, “Tunisians have given these immigrants everything that could be offered with limitless generosity.” Mr. Saied had come under heavy fire for the manner in which hundreds of migrants had been detained in Tunisia and then “deported,” as per NGOs, to hostile regions near the borders with Algeria and Libya.

Women and children were found abandoned in the middle of the desert without access to water, food, or shelter, according to telephone testimonies relayed to AFP and films sent to NGOs in Tunisia.

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Women and children were seen abandoned in the midst of the desert in Tunisia without access to water, food, or shelter in telephone interviews with AFP and in footage supplied to NGOs there.

On Sunday, Libyan border guards told AFP that they had found at least 70 migrants roaming in the freezing cold and alone in a region where the two nations’ borders meet.

Since Mr. Saied, who assumed full authority in July 2021, criticised illegal immigration in February by referring to “hordes of sub-Saharan migrants” who, in his words, had arrived to “change the demographic composition” of the country, a more overtly racist language has proliferated in Tunisia.

The accord reached between Brussels and Tunis specifically calls for 105 million euros in funding to stop illegal immigration.

In addition, the EU has pledged to provide direct budgetary assistance in the amount of 150 million euros in 2023, at a time when Tunisia is struggling to pay its debts, which account for 80% of its GDP, and faces recurring shortages of basic commodities that are paid for by the government.

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The European troika had mentioned “macro-financial assistance of 900 million euros” during its initial visit, which would have been given to Tunisia in the form of a loan over the following few years.

On Sunday, Mrs. von der Leyen stated that Brussels was still “prepared to offer this assistance as soon as the requirements are met.”

However, this “assistance” is dependent on a deal being reached between Tunisia and the IMF on a new $2 billion credit, a matter that has been impasse for months.

Two essential requirements for an agreement with the IMF are rejected by President Saied: the elimination of subsidies on essential goods and the restructuring of failing state-owned firms.

He stated on Sunday that we must “discover new ways of cooperating outside the international monetary framework.”

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