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Scorecard The Europe Question

After the revolution: Europe and the transition in Tunisia

Go to the Middle East and North Africa programme's page

Tunisia needs help, not rhetoric, from Europe   

Tunisians are bitter about EU support for the Ben Ali regime, and think their revolution happened despite Europe. But the EU has the opportunity to make amends, as Tunisia tries to build a new political society from scratch in a region that is still in turmoil.  

Consolidating a democratic system would benefit Europe, but the EU should not adopt its usual stance of teaching and preaching. Instead, European leaders must respond with concrete steps at the extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council on Thursday March 10th and the European Council on Friday March 11th.

In "After the revolution: Europe and the transition in Tunisia", based upon a recent ECFR research visit to Tunisia, the authors suggest several key areas in which Europe can offer practical help, including:

  • The economy is the main issue that can make or break the revolution. The EU should encourage re-engagement in the tourist industry, which has seen bookings halve, and support the upgrading of key infrastructure, especially telecommunications and the port.
  • Aid should be targeted at ‘crisis points’ such as hospitals, and the Tunisian border with Libya, which is dealing with large influxes of refugees.
  • European expertisecan be offered in areas like police reform and developing an independent media.
  • Reassurance that Tunisia is not being forgotten as attention focuses on Libya. Students should be given more opportunities to study in Europe.

The full memo can be found here

Key facts:

  • The EU is by far Tunisia’s largest trading partner, buying €9.9bn out of Tunisia’s total €11.8bn exports; two thirds of foreign investment comes from the EU.
  • Tunisia will hold elections by July 24th for a constituent assembly that will write a new constitution.

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