Monday , May 23 2022

The Tunisian president inaugurates his visits outside the Arab world in France


Libya’s economic difficulties and crisis are among the most prominent files for the negotiations

Tunisian President Kais Saied did not depart from the unwritten protocol and political rule that makes Paris the first foreign station (outside the Maghreb and Arab space) for Tunisian presidents given the “special relations” “between Tunisia and France.

However, this visit, which was postponed due to the Coronavirus, takes place in difficult circumstances for both parties. On the one hand, Tunisia is suffering internally from economic, social, political and financial problems, the most obvious manifestations being the conflict in the city of Tataouine. Externally, the Libyan crisis is weighing heavily on Tunisia, which shares 500 km of borders with Libya and has welcomed tens of thousands of Libyans since 2011. What’s more, according to European sources in Paris, the appearance of a “conflict of powers” in the field of foreign policy between the Carthage Palace and the Presidency of the Parliament over the Libyan file, which gave the impression of the existence of “duplication” despite the constitutional text that puts foreign and defense policies in the hands of the President of the Republic. . On the other hand, France suffers from the consequences of Covid 19, the consequences of the economic cycle intervention, the consequent economic losses, debt accumulation, the suspension of companies, and the rise in unemployment figures … In addition, Paris may have lost its cards in Libya after the growth of Turkey and Russia’s military presence and the ambiguity of the situation. The American Administration and the growing tension between it and Ankara. Therefore, the Libyan file is expected to be the main dish between Emmanuel Macron and Qais Saeed. What gives added importance to the meeting is that Paris and Tunisia co-operate in the UN Security Council and the role the latter can play in managing the ongoing war and facilitating dialogue.

Saeed’s visit, which has been postponed due to the start of the pandemic, marks the first foreign head of state to France since the stone was laid in mid-March, and takes place at the invitation of the first officially. The Tunisian presidency overcame the visit, describing it as a “work and friendship visit.” However, there are many meanings to be timed in light of what happened in Tunisian parliament two weeks ago regarding a draft resolution asking France to apologize for the “crimes” it committed during Tunisia’s colonial period and call it to compensate Tunisians and the province of Tunisia. Although the bill did not pass through Parliament and received only 77 votes, while 107 needed approval, the discussions and exchanges that took place showed deep divisions about the relationship with the former colonial state. There is no doubt that both presidents will benefit from the occasion of the visit to emphasize the friendship between their two countries.

Despite the shortness of the visit, its program was intensive, as it was an extensive meeting between the two sides, followed by a closed meeting, an official dinner at Elysee Palace, and a press interview. Said also met the Tunisian community in France and is expected to visit the Arab World Institute before returning to his country at the end of the 24-hour visit.

Sources in France said Paris was “keen” to stabilize Tunisia and protect it from the after-effects of the Libyan war, not only against it, but the entire North African region and the Sahel countries. Paris had previously warned of the Turkish expansion towards the Maghreb countries, and considered this a “strategic threat” to the interests of France and Europe. Likewise, there are fears that the “Syrian model” will be reproduced in Libya, that is, splitting circles of influence between Turkey and Russia. And between Paris and Tunisia today, there is “site solidarity”, focusing on ceasing fire, the departure of foreign powers, and the search for a political solution that includes all. President Macron undoubtedly wanted to hear from his Tunisian guest the “details” of his country’s position, his reading of this crisis and its process, and confirmation of foreign policy.

In the economic sphere, Tunisia expects Paris to stand beside it in the suffocation crisis it is going through and fears that unemployment will reach record highs that could reach 20 per cent. However, what might limit the amount of aid in France is the fact that Paris, Tunisia’s first economic partner, is suffering from an unprecedented accumulation of debt and it counts, as do many European Union members like Italy and Spain, on loans from the unified European debt project. President Macron estimated the “cost” of the Coronavirus to be 500 billion euros. But France, given its special ties, is still the “main gateway” for Tunisia to reach the European Union.

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