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Rome leads Europe in reaching out to Tunis

The Italian PM met with the Tunisian President to work towards unlocking the stalled IMF loan the country badly needs to begin its economic recovery. She offered Italy’s material support and acted as a conduit for the EU’s Commission, which backed her efforts

Giorgia Meloni in Tunis. On Tuesday, the Italian Prime Minister flew to the Tunisian capital to meet with President Kaïs Saïed. Her first objective was to highlight Rome’s efforts to unlock a $2 billion International Monetary Fund loan, “which remains fundamental for the country’s strengthening and full recovery,” as she stated in a brief video broadcasted on Rai News 24.

  • The IMF is wary of unlocking disbursement until President Saïed agrees on fiscal reforms, which he called “diktats” and rejected.
  • PM Meloni is pressuring both sides to show more flexibility, as she believes the country’s dire economic crisis and spillover effects warrant quick action.
  • She aims to leverage Italy and Tunisia’s historical friendship and “very ancient ties,” as she said, noting that “together we can achieve extraordinary potential.”

The migration dossier. Italy is also concerned with staving off a potentially-dramatic increase in migrant fluxes, as over half of the over 50,000 people who have reached Italian shores this year departed from Tunisia (partly due to the economic crisis). The Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi recently travelled to Tunis to increase cooperation with local authorities, including supplying land vehicles and training the Tunisian Coast Guard to boost its ability to intercept departing migrants.

  • Meanwhile, the Italian government seeks to boost the African countries’ stabilisation process by means of local investments, especially in the field of energy, to favour local development.

Italy’s approach. “At the European level, Italy has taken a concrete approach to increase support for Tunisia both in the fight against human trafficking and illegal immigration, but also for an integrated support package, funding and important opportunities that Brussels is working on,” said PM Meloni, stressing she has given President Saïed her availability “to return to Tunisia soon” together with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

  • The Italian PM also discussed with the Tunisian President the possibility of holding “an international conference in Rome on the issue of migration and development” so as to tackle the phenomenon from all sides. She vowed to draw up plans for this event “in the shortest time possible.”

The EU’s got her back. “We must increase cooperation with Tunisia, which is a key partner,” said the EU’s Internal Affairs Commissioner, Ylva Johansson, on Tuesday. The number of migrant boat departures “is not sustainable,” she added, noting that PM Meloni’s visit is “crucial because Italy plays a constructive role in our relations with Tunis.”

  • “The Commission and Rome are allied in increasing cooperation with this country,” added the commissioner, highlighting that departures from Tunisia fell significantly after her latest visit – “but it’s certain that this will last.”

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