EU officials in Tunisia to assess 'dire' situation

President Kais Saied criticises statement from Brussels and tells officials to mind their own business

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Monday told the bloc's foreign ministers the situation in Tunisia was dangerous.  AP
Powered by automated translation

A European Union delegation visited Tunisia on Tuesday, hours after the bloc's foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell described the country's political situation as “dire”.

Gert Jan Koopman, Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations director general, and Johannes Luchner, deputy director general for EU Home Affairs, were in Tunis “to discuss and assess” the EU's relationship with Tunisia.

Marcus Cornaro, EU ambassador to Tunisia, said on Twitter the officials were there to talk about socio-economic reforms and migration policy.

The visit came after a meeting of the Foreign Ministers Council on Monday in Brussels, where Mr Borrell said “the situation in Tunisia is very, very dangerous.”

“If it collapses economically or socially, then we will be in a situation where new flows of migrants will come to Europe. We have to avoid this situation,” Mr Borrell said.

Tunisia's President Kais Saied criticised the statement in a speech on Monday, as the country celebrated the 67th anniversary of its independence from France.

“We reject any form of interference in our internal affairs and we are not under anyone’s tutelage,” Mr Saied said.

The Tunisian Foreign Affairs Ministry echoed Mr Saied's sentiment in an official statement on Tuesday.

“The comments made are disproportionate to the well-established resilience of the Tunisian people throughout history regarding the threat of migration towards Europe,” it said.

The ministry said EU official's remarks were “selective”, unlike Europe's disregard for Tunisia's situation from the uprisings of 2011 until July 25, 2021, the day the president dismissed his government.

The European Parliament adopted by an overwhelming majority a resolution condemning what it called “the recent attacks against freedom of expression and association and trade unions in Tunisia”.

The Parliament also called on the European Commission, through its resolution, to suspend EU funded-support programmes to Tunisia's ministries of justice and interior affairs.

Updated: March 21, 2023, 1:46 PM