On an official two-day visit to Tunisia, the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker signed four agreements worth 270 million euros with the Tunisian president Béji Caïd Essebsi on Thursday. The agreements will see the European Commission invest in infrastructures in the Energy sector in Tunisia, help with its tax reforms, the justice system, and economic competitiveness among other things.
It is not yet clear whether the money will be paid back in form of loans or if it is a grant from the European Union. However, it was an opportunity to cement the partnership between the European Union and Tunisia following the invitation extended by the Tunisian president to the European Union. “Since 2011, we have given a financial amount of some 10 billion euros to Tunisia. And today, we have just signed 4 agreements that are worth some 270 million, which proves that our relations are not at a standstill but that they continue to improve every day”, Juncker said after the signing of the agreements.
It was also another EU venture to secure the help of African governments in fighting illegal migration from Africa. Both leaders had discussions on fighting illegal migration from Africa into Europe. Tunisia’s president claimed the problem of illegal immigration was Europe’s fault. “I regret to say it in front of the President, but Europe does not have a united policy and all the European countries do not react in the same way to migrants, so this is a problem that will remain“, Essebsi said.
Juncker also informed the Tunisian president that his country would be removed from the European Union’s ‘Blacklist’ of money laundering and terrorist financing and instead put in the ‘Gray list’. The EU’s Gray list is a list of 47 countries that the European nations bloc considers to be riddled with tax issues including in terms of transparency, fair taxation, and, hence, believes should be improved on.
This list allows the EU to know how to negotiate with these countries, who can be used as tax havens for money launderers. The EU ‘Blacklist’ of countries that have failed to address lapses in their tax laws and policies. Countries on the Blacklist include well-known tax havens such as South Korea, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Grenada etc.
“European Union attaches great importance to the strategic partnership with Tunisia, especially as Europe will continue to support the Tunisian transition and contribute to its prosperity, its social stability and its economic recovery,” Juncker said.
President Juncker will also be paying a visit to the Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed today.