The first meeting of the EU-Tunisia Task Force held recently in Tunis led to a set of concrete measures designed to help Tunisia revive its economy and support its transition towards a democratic future.
In this context, Bernardino Leon, European Union’s Special Representative for the Southern Mediterranean Region agreed to an interview with AfricanManager, focusing particularly on what the EU is prepared to do to support Tunisia.
1-What are the objectives of the EU-Tunisia Task Force meeting and what significance needs to be given by Tunisia to this type of meeting initiated by the EU?
First, it must be said that Tunisia and the European Union are tied by privileged relations facilitated by geographical proximity, the common cultural and historical heritage and the intensity of economic and human resources exchanges between the two partners.
Indeed, the Task Force is a strong signal of support to Tunisia and a good opportunity for both parties to reaffirm their commitment towards deepening the strategic partnership relations.
This strong signal is sent to the government and people of Tunisia and in the direction of the international community to prompt economic recovery and encourage private investors and operators to show more interest in the Tunisian site.
The EU has supported Tunisia in different areas, for example, in the service sector, and this through an assistance of $ 20 million to strengthen competitiveness in the health sector, ICT, transport and logistics and professional services.
It also provided support for economic growth, particularly to the Tunisian Government’s emergency program to revive the economy whose total aid from donors amounted to 1 billion Euros, including a donation of 100 million Euros.
2- What is the role of EU-Tunisia Task Force?
The EU-Tunisia Task Force is the first of its kind to emerge in the South of the Mediterranean since the beginning of the Arab spring. It will ensure better coordination of European and international support for transition in Tunisia.
Indeed, it is committed to monitoring the implementation of its decisions and will meet again in 2012 to continue work on projects in the medium and long term.
3 – When will the negotiations for the Open Skies begin?
Tunisia really needs to revitalize its economy, including improvement of the situation of the tourism sector. Not only in tourism but also in other areas including agriculture, investment …
In this context the negotiations should take place as soon as possible. There is no date for the resumption of negotiations, but we hope to do it in the coming weeks.
4 – What are the commitments of the EU in immigration which is experiencing resurgence from the start of the Arab Spring?
The fight against illegal immigration is a priority for the Tunisian government that has really made steadfast and huge efforts to deal with this widespread phenomenon, especially since the events of January 14.
In its neighborhood policy, the European Union grants assistance to southern Mediterranean countries to meet aspirations for political, economic and social reforms that emerge.
We must strengthen the capacity to stem the flow of Tunisian illegal immigrants to Europe. We have expressed our commitment to ensuring all the means likely to allow the revival of the Tunisian tourism sector.