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Tunisia: France in favour of an advanced status of Tunisia with the EU

Tunisia has skills and experience that are valuable for Europe. That is why France wishes that Tunisia gets an advanced status in its relations with the European Union, said the Ambassador of France in Tunis, Pierre Ménat in an exclusive interview with African Manager. Interview:

Tunisia’s economic and political comparative advantages continue to give it, as far as France is concerned, an important role for the stability of the Maghreb and continuing Euro-Mediterranean construction. Can you tell us more about this issue?

Tunisia is a major partner for France and the European Union. It is not only so in terms of bilateral relations but also in the framework of the Union for the Mediterranean. Tunisia has skills and experience that are valuable for Europe. That is why France wishes that Tunisia gets an advanced status in its relations with the European Union. This aspiration is legitimate because Tunisia was the first Mediterranean country to sign an association agreement. The point now is to define the exact content of that status.

Several very important agreements were signed during the visit of Prime Minister Francois Fillon in Tunis on 23 and April 24, 2009. These agreements are designed to initiate cooperation in civil nuclear field and thus implement the offer made by France to share the skills that are among the best in the world in this area with Tunisia to enable it access to nuclear energy that preserves the environment. It is even a solution and an answer to the problem of depletion of fossil energy sources.  A few months later, could you tell us more about the impact of these agreements on Tunisia?

Some important agreements were signed in the field of transport. They led to concrete results:  France has supported the start of the Mediterranean Institute for maritime trade by funding the feasibility study of the center conducted by a French specializing firm, then by mobilizing 2 million Euros to the establishment of training and equipment facilities in the Institute. France also supports the installation of AEROLIA Company, a subsidiary of EADS, and its subcontractors, who will compose the M’ghira aeronautical industrial park. Finally the agreement of cooperation in land transport aims to consider various options to support projects in Tunisia in the railway field such as the Greater Tunis  RTS : French funding , but also industrial partnerships and actions in the areas of training and maintenance.

Regarding the nuclear, a framework agreement signed in April 2009, in the presence of French and Tunisian prime ministers, has been filled out by the establishment of cooperation between STEG and CEA. The latter is involved in studies that will allow Tunisia to take , by 2011-2012, a decision regarding the launch of a project  of  nuclear plant for electricity production.

Some believe that 2010 will be a year of recovery, is there an appropriate strategy to strengthen the Tunisian-French relations?

A restart of the economy is actually expected in France and Europe in 2010. It may  have positive effects for the Tunisian economy. In this context, France will strengthen its ties with Tunisia, first by contributing to the financing of major infrastructure projects in the country, partly by mobilizing a new instrument for Tunisian SMEs. This credit line, worth 40 million Euros, will be the most competitive in the market, with a maximum interest rate of 4.6% for a 10 years loan in dinars. It is therefore an opportunity for those companies to contribute significantly to job creation

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