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Tunis Did Not Endorse 60 Mn EU Payment – Foreign Ministry

(ANSA) – ROME, OCT 5 – The Tunisian authorities did not endorse the payment by the European Commission of 60 million euros in budget support, the Tunisian foreign ministry said on Thursday.

The ministry referred “to the content of the press release from the Presidency of the Republic of 2 October 2023” in which Tunisian President Kais Saied rejected the “charity” funds.

On Wednesday European Commission spokesperson for neighbourhood and enlargement Ana Pisonero confirmed that “earlier this week, the Commission has indeed processed the payment of €60 million in grants to the Tunisian treasury following a request from the Tunisian government on the 31st of August”.

She added that the disbursement did not come from funds promised under the memorandum of understanding signed between the European Union and Tunisia in mid-July as part of efforts to curb irregular migration to Europe, but from a separate 127-million-euro financial package announced in September.

Her comments came after Saied on Tuesday rejected the offer.

“Tunisia, which accepts cooperation, does not accept anything resembling charity or favour, because our country and our people do not want sympathy and do not accept it when it is without respect,” said Saied said, according to the press release.

“Consequently, Tunisia refuses what has been announced in recent days by the EU” because it “contradicts the memorandum of understanding signed in Tunis in the spirit that prevailed at the Rome conference last July”, he continued.

Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni, who was instrumental in brokering the deal, said on Wednesday she agreed with Saied on the need to change the approach to African countries.

“I think that President Saied, certainly in an assertive tone, was addressing public opinion,” she said.

“After that he is not saying anything very different from what Italy is also saying, which is that the relationship with African countries must change because we have had a paternalistic approach with these countries, a bit as if we felt superior, which is not the right way to deal with these matters.

“With these nations we must work with respect, as equals, with an approach that is that of a strategic partnership,” she added.

At an international conference on migration and development in Rome in July Meloni launched a “dialogue of equals” between countries on both shores of the Mediterranean and further afield as part of efforts to find solutions to irregular migration to Europe and promote cooperation in the fields of agriculture, energy, infrastructure, education and healthcare.

Meloni said that in order to tackle migration, partnerships with countries of origin and transit “must be equal, non-predatory, multidimensional and long-term”.  

They “must be based on respect and not on a paternalistic approach, on solidarity, on respect for each other’s sovereignty, on shared responsibility for upholding legality,” the premier added.

This, she insisted, “is the only serious way to strengthen our bond, trust each other and foster the development and prosperity of our peoples”.

Source: Ansa