€4 billion to Tunisia for 2011-2013: EU offers financial support, trade openings and improved mobility

Tunisia has received pledges of continued EU support and ‘privileged partnership’, at the first meeting of the joint EU-Tunisia taskforce in Tunis on 28 and 29 September.  
EU financial support to Tunisia should approach €4 billion euros over the 2011-2013 period, including contributions from the EU, its Member States and the European Investment Bank, High Representative Catherine Ashton said in Tunis yesterday.
Nine months since the fall of President Ben Ali precipitated the Arab Spring, and less than a month before Tunisians go to the polls in the first democratic elections in the region since the revolution, the Tunisian government has now unveiled its economic and social development strategy for 2012-2016.  The EU has pledged initial support worth over €150 million, committing itself to working closely with the Tunisian authorities and with other international organisations in targetting its support for the plan.

The EU confirmed yesterday it would provide a €100 million grant in support of a €1 billion multi-donor support programme, as well as a €57 million EU grant to reform the water sector.  It also promised to support the return to Tunisia of the illicitly acquired assets of the previous regime.
“The EU is ready to offer support to Tunisia based on Tunisia's needs and a shared vision of privileged relations,” said Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle.
“Already this year, the Commission has doubled its financial assistance to Tunisia. We have also increased the financial envelope for 2012 and 2013,” the Commissioner said yesterday, adding: “Tomorrow, we will sign two important financing agreements totalling €157 million. An important part of this sum can be immediately disbursed after the signature and will provide concrete support to the authorities.”
High Representative Ashton said a new Tunisia was emerging: “open, dynamic, prosperous, and democratic. It is an example for the entire region.” Ashton led the EU Delegation to Tunis, comprising representatives from the European Commission, Parliament and Member States. Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi led the Tunisian Delegation. Other international organisations and business-people were also present, and met Tunisian business and civil society organisations.

Discussions also focussed on liberalising trade to allow Tunisian agricultural and fisheries products into the EU, as well as industrial products such as mechanical and electrical goods, and construction materials.  

“We stress, too, the importance of developing the links between our peoples,” added Ashton.  The Taskforce launched moves towards concluding the EU’s first ‘Mobility Partnership’ in North Africa, aimed at facilitating visas for Tunisian students, researchers and businesspeople wishing to travel to the EU.  New EU funds were also announced to support EU university scholarships for the region (€30 million), and the work of civil society organisations (€22 million).  

The EU has already given technical support to the Tunisian national election commission, and an independent EU team will observe the upcoming elections. (ENPI Info Centre)
Read more
Ashton comments
Füle speech
First Tunisia-EU Task Force meeting: summary of key deliverables
‘A privileged partnership’ – the EU and Tunisia
Video coverage
ENPI Info Centre – EU-Tunisia Task Force agrees concrete assistance for transition
ENPI Info Centre – EU pledges support for Tunisia asset recovery
EC MEMO – The Special Measure for less favoured areas in Tunisia
ENPI Info Centre – EU response to the Arab Spring: new package of support for North Africa and Middle East (27-09-11)


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