The 15th meeting of the EU-Tunisia Association Council was held in Brussels on 17 May 2019. It was co-chaired by Ms Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and by Mr Khémaies Jhinaoui, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Tunisia.
This meeting of the Association Council has demonstrated the outstanding nature of the EU-Tunisia privileged partnership, which is founded on shared values and dynamic, diversified cooperation. The objectives which we agreed upon in May 2018 are still relevant, and we remain committed to achieving them with tangible results to the benefit of our citizens.
The Youth Partnership is still high on our common agenda. Our cooperation has opened up new opportunities for young Tunisians, covering areas as diverse as education and training, mobility, employability, entrepreneurship and youth participation in voluntary work and politics. In that connection, we note the cooperation within the framework of Erasmus +, and in particular the considerable increase in the number of exchanges, which has more than tripled since 2015, and the opportunity afforded to young Tunisians since 2018 to take part in traineeships within European firms. These measures benefiting young people are being consolidated today with the signing of the ‘EU4Youth’ programme, which allocates EUR 60 million for the economic, social and political inclusion of young Tunisians.
We confirmed that the consolidation of democracy, good governance and the rule of law, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the strengthening of the role of civil society are core elements of our partnership. We noted the speeding up of the process of decentralisation in Tunisia in 2018, a process which requires the finalisation of a proper legal and regulatory framework, financial and human resources and support for the municipalities. The EU is supporting that process through various programmes and an overall allocation of EUR 175 million.
In the run-up to the 2019 general and presidential elections, the EU has received an invitation from the Independent High Authority for the Elections to send an election observation mission (EOM) for those elections. It has already decided to further strengthen its support for the Independent High Authority for the Elections, in particular through the approval of an additional sum of EUR 2 million for that purpose.
We stressed the importance of EU support for inclusive and sustainable development by jump-starting and diversifying the Tunisian economy and boosting its competitiveness. The pursuit of significant economic and structural reforms remains essential in order to build on Tunisia’s democratic and political achievements. The EU will continue to support Tunisia to that end. It is in that context that the European Commission and the main financial and international institutions will undertake a mission in early July 2019 following up on the high-level joint mission of 12 July 2018.
Both parties underlined the importance of the efforts being made to support investment in Tunisia by making use of innovative instruments such as the European External Investment Plan.
It is evident from our discussions that a great deal of progress has been achieved in terms of sectoral cooperation. In particular, we appreciate the strengthening of cooperation in the field of transport through the identification of joint measures for the exchange of good practice and expertise in the area of road safety; the development of intelligent transport and logistics systems in Tunisia and cooperation with the various European transport agencies (the European Aviation Safety Agency, the European Maritime Safety Agency and the European Railways Agency).
We also welcome the agreement between both parties to launch negotiations for an agreement on the extension of the coverage of the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS), which reflects our interest in working together in the space sector, and which has a significant impact on harmonising air transport safety on both sides of the Mediterranean.
We welcome the good results from Tunisia's involvement in the EU framework programme Horizon 2020. EU funding to the tune of EUR 8 million has covered, amongst other things, cooperation between researchers, academics, small- and medium-sized enterprises, public administrations and non-governmental organisations and European partners in a range of scientific fields. We stressed the importance of capitalising on these positive results and ensuring the transition to Tunisia's involvement in the future Horizon Europe programme (2021 - 2027). With that in mind, awareness-raising events on Tunisia's involvement in H2020 will be held in both Tunis and Brussels, including Tunisia's participation in the European innovation days in Brussels in September 2019.
We will continue our cooperation on cultural and economic enhancement of Tunisia's heritage, and on promoting young Tunisians' involvement in public life through cultural activities. The European Union announced its willingness to support Tunisia in developing, over the longer term, a national strategy on cultural diplomacy that would focus on the common cultural heritage of the EU and Tunisia. To that end, a second workshop will be organised in Tunisia in the near future with support from the EU's Cultural Diplomacy Platform.
Also in the field of diplomatic cooperation, we welcomed the launch of the first activities under the administrative agreement between the EEAS and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on work placements for diplomats. The EU also expressed willingness to support Tunisia with the development of its diplomatic academy, whose regional sway could reinforce the Tunisia-EU partnership.
We confirmed our desire to consolidate economic and trade relations between the EU and Tunisia, by continuing the negotiations on a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). The DCFTA will help Tunisia diversify its economy, increase its competitiveness and develop its exports to the EU, which is its main trade partner. We agreed on the importance of keeping our bilateral trade as seamless as possible, without obstacles or barriers. The European Union noted the Tunisian authorities' announcement that they would withdraw the trade measures adopted in November 2018 as soon as possible. Tunisia noted the comment from the EU side that those measure were having an impact on European products.
We discussed the opportunities provided and challenges posed by migration and undertook to strengthen cooperation in that area and to make progress in the negotiations on visa facilitation and the readmission agreement, with a view to concluding them as soon as possible. We will continue our work intensively, in coordination with the Member States, so as to ensure synergies between the visa facilitation agreement and the DCFTA.
The EU welcomes the progress made by Tunisia on complying with the international and European standards on combating money laundering and financing of terrorism, and will continue its support for those purposes. Our shared objective is for Tunisia to come off both the FATF list and the European Union list as soon as possible.
We stressed the vital need to improve awareness of the EU-Tunisia partnership amongst the general public in our respective countries, by using initiatives such as an annual day devoted to the partnership. Those initiatives will highlight, in particular, the positive impact of the cooperation for Tunisian citizens.
We reiterated our desire to continue and intensify our joint discussion on the future of EU-Tunisia relations after 2020, so as to explore ways of deepening our partnership and give practical expression to the unique ties that bind us.
We also highlighted the importance we attach to the parliamentary dimension of our privileged partnership.
Conscious of the common security challenges that require coordinated action, in line with the values of democracy and human rights, we attach particular importance to our cooperation in the field of security and fighting terrorism.
We discussed regional matters of mutual interest, in particular the situation in Libya, Syria, the Middle East and the Sahel. We also discussed the prospects for strengthening regional and sub-regional cooperation.