Tunisia-EU: It’s not all rosy, says Brussels

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Over the last 12 months, the EU and Tunisia have developed much closer relations and stepped up their cooperation in the various fields covered by the Privileged Partnership.

That is the conclusion of the progress report on the state of EU-Tunisia relations published on Wednesday by the services of the European Commission and the European External Action Service ahead of the EU Tunisia Association Council in Brussels on 15 May 2018.

The report highlights the intense high-level exchanges, dialogue and cooperation on key issues such as youth employability and reforms, consolidating democracy and promoting good governance (in which Tunisian civil society continues to play a central role), the response to common security challenges and the coordinated management of migration.

“The European Union and Tunisia are natural partners on account of their geographical, cultural and

commercial links. We are eager to deepen our Privileged Partnership, and the EU remains committed to a democratic, strong and prosperous Tunisia. Our efforts are focused in particular on the aspirations of Tunisia’s young people, for whose benefit we launched a Partnership for Youth in 2016, which we are in the process of strengthening. The local elections on 6 May, which the Tunisian Government invited us to observe, marked an important step in consolidating democracy in the country and implementing the 2014 Constitution. They pave the way for an ambitious process of decentralization,” said High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini.

Roadmap for reforms

“The EU is continuing to deploy all its cooperation instruments to support the political and socioeconomic transition in Tunisia. Our commitment takes the form, for example, of increased financial assistance; in 2017 the European Commission provided €300 million in grants. The Tunisians are looking for tangible progress and results, and in the light of the current economic situation, the process of institutional and socio-economic reform needs to be speeded up. In this connection, I am delighted that a Roadmap for Priority Reforms was presented last month in Brussels by the Prime Minister,” added the Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement

Negotiations Johannes Hahn.

The report finds that tangible progress has been made in numerous fields, including women’s rights,

judicial reform, measures to promote youth entrepreneurship, local development, the green economy, culture and civil protection. In addition, Tunisia’s involvement in the Horizon 2020 program and its active participation in Erasmus+ have made possible an increase in the exchanges between researchers, students, teachers and young people, contributing to the development of an innovation-oriented society. Negotiations on ambitious bilateral agreements on air transport, economics and trade, and migration, also moved forward.

Over the last 12 months, the European Union has demonstrated its continued support for Tunisia’s

political and socio-economic transition, including by supporting urgent and essential structural reforms to boost inclusive and sustainable growth. Through this report, the European Union is reiterating its determination to continue supporting Tunisia and exploring the vision for the future of the EU-Tunisia partnership.

The grievance catalog

Beyond this generally positive state of affairs and the declarations of faith with which it is strewn, the report also pinpointed Tunisia in many areas, for example, those of human rights and fundamental freedoms which demand to be consolidated and effectively implemented while a “number of laws still in force are against them”.

Another complaint, it is formulated against “strong macroeconomic imbalances, public deficit and balance of payments deficit”. The government is urged to take the necessary fiscal consolidation measures without further delay.

In the crosshairs of the EU there are also the “limited transparency in the financing of public companies, and the equally limited control exerted by the State on these companies”.

Added to this catalog is the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism, “an area of priority cooperation” between the EU and Tunisia.

While acknowledging that Tunisia has made progress in implementing its agreed action plan with the FATF, the EU states that “significant efforts are still required”.

Finally, with regard to the implementation of security sector reform, the EU report points to the delays recorded over the past year.

Above all, it urges speedy progress “in the implementation of the program to support the reform and modernization of the security sector, including strengthening the transparency and accountability of the sector as the main tool to restore trust between the internal security forces and citizens, as well as strengthening of border security and the capacity to fight terrorism and organized crime”.

In 2018, the EU and Tunisia will continue to work together to define a vision for 2030 that will reflect their ambition for an ever more in-depth partnership to tackle common challenges, the report concludes.

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