Emmanuel Macron on January 30, 2018 at the Elysée, in Paris
President Emmanuel Macron is expected Wednesday in Tunisia to „support the democratic transition“ of this country weakened by economic and social difficulties, seven years after its revolution.
The French president arrives mid-afternoon in Tunis, two weeks after a new outbreak of fever marked by demonstrations, some of which degenerated into night riots, in several Tunisian cities.
But President Macron places his state visit, the first at this level in an Arab country since his election, under the sign of optimism. It is „to support the Tunisian democratic experience, which is the only successful transition experience after the Arab Spring“ of 2011, according to the Elysee.
The head of state will do this in particular by addressing Thursday to the deputies to the People’s Assembly and meeting officials of the dynamic civil society.
„The relationship with Tunisia is a priority“ because the ties between the two countries „are exceptional“, he had said receiving his counterpart Béji Caid Essebsi, 91, in December at the Elysee.
But, beyond words, Tunisians demand especially concrete gestures from the former colonial power.
– ‚Many promises‘ –
„They do not expect much more promises of support from foreign officials and only half believe,“ said the Tunisian political scientist Selim Kharrat.
„In 2011, we were promised a Marshall Plan and exceptional aid that never came in. More recently, many promises were made in the framework of the Tunisia 2020 Summit, but we see that it is rarely followed by facts. palpable on the ground and in the lived experience of the Tunisian lambda „, according to him.
Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, June 5, 2017 at Carthage Palace, near Tunis
The French Presidency indicates that a series of economic, security, academic and cultural agreements will be signed during the talks with President Essebsi and Prime Minister Youssef Chahed.
In an interview with the French-language daily La Presse, Mr Macron said he would announce during his visit „an additional effort at least in three areas: the reduction of inequalities, social and territorial, the employability of young people (…) and increased investment in future sectors including (…) renewable energies and new technologies „.
While welcoming the „positive signals“ sent by the government, he said that „the Tunisian state also has reforms to carry out so that Tunisia becomes a more attractive destination for foreign investment.“
The French head of state is accompanied by his wife Brigitte, several ministers, including Jean-Yves Le Drian (Foreign Affairs) and Jean-Michel Blanquer (Education), two young Tunisian MPs of the presidential party (Sonia Krimi and Anissa Khedher), artists and businessmen like Stéphane Richard (Orange) and Xavier Niel (Iliad).
– Call for investors –
„The Tunisian government wants to take advantage of this visit to find a solution to the debt of Tunisia to France“, according to the daily Al Sabah, which announces the conversion of 30 million euros of debt into investment projects, a sum that Paris has not confirmed.
Tunisia’s outstanding public debt to France amounted to 2,380 million dinars, or about 800 million euros (as of December 31, 2016), according to Tunis.
Paris is also looking for ways to help the Tunisian government reduce unemployment, which remains above 15% and exceeds 30% among young graduates despite the rebound in growth in 2017 to 2%. A call is thus launched to French companies to „massively return to invest in Tunisia,“ says the Elysee.
An agreement will also be signed to better collaborate in the fight against terrorism while the state of emergency remains in force in Tunisia two years after being established after bloody jihadist attacks, including that of the Bardo Museum, where the president will go French.
This visit, which follows those in Morocco, Algeria and several West African countries, will give Emmanuel Macron the opportunity to promote the new relationship he wants to establish with Africa and the South Bank of Africa. the Mediterranean.
„With Africa (…) France wants to build a shared future and friendship There can be no lasting success against terrorism if our common strategy is not accompanied by the settlement of political conflicts, a renewal of development aid, encouragement of international investments, enhancement of the position of women, or the promotion of education, „Macron told La Presse.