On 27 May Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid met with EU Foreign Affairs chief Federica Mogherini in Brussels to discuss the intensification of the cooperation between both countries. The talks mainly focused on the Horizon 2020 research program which will be opened for Tunisia, the financial increase in bilateral cooperation, and on advancing on a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA).
Horizon 2020 research program
The Horizon 2020 research program is the biggest EU Research and Innovation program that the EU has ever started. It has nearly €80 billion of funding in addition to the private investments. Tunisia met all the requirements and has therefore been granted access to the Horizon 2020 research program. This enables Tunisian researchers to benefit from the opportunities this program offers.
The European Union cooperates with Tunisia through the European Neighbourhood Policy and the ‘2013-2017 EU-Tunisia Action Plan for privileged partnership.’ The key EU financial instrument for cooperation with Tunisia is the European Neighbourhood Instrument, which is set for the period 2014-2020.
In the aftermath of the Tunisian revolution, the European Union doubled the amount of financial assistance allocated to Tunisia. Due to the political and economic challenges, the bilateral cooperation was reviewed and re-oriented to support the ‘new’ Tunisia.
In the meeting between Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid and EU Foreign Affairs Chief Federica Mogherini, Tunisia was set as the first beneficiary of the EU’s 2015 ‘Umbrella’ programme in the southern neighbourhood. Also, an additional €70 million was added on top of the €115 million in bilateral cooperation.
Deep Comprehensive Free Trade Area
The preparatory process for the negotiations on a Deep Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) between Tunisia and the European Union has been completed. The official DCFTA negotiations between Tunisia and the EU will start in October this year.
In 1995, Tunisia was the first Mediterranean country to sign and Association Agreement with the EU. Following the Association Agreement, the European Council adopted negotiating directives for a DCFTA with Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco in 2011.
The DCFTA aims to improve ‘market access opportunities and the investment climate and at supporting economic reforms undertaken by Tunisia. It will extend significantly beyond the scope of the existing Association Agreement to include trade in services, government procurement, competition, intellectual property rights, and investment protection.’ The DCFTA will lead to a gradual integration of Tunisia in the EU single market and closer legislative ties between the two parties in trade-related areas. In response to the Tunisian Prime Minister, Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström welcomed the start of the negotiation process. ‘I was delighted to hear his announcement that Tunisia is ready to launch negotiations on an ambitious partnership with the EU on trade and investment matters.’ Malmström said.
The start of the negotiating process on the DCFTA shows the commitment of the EU to promote a stable Tunisia, which was the epicentre of the Arab Spring. Tunisia has received worldwide acknowledgement of the democratic changes that the country has been through in the last four years. However, it still faces troubling issues as Tunisia borders Libya to the east – the latter one torn apart by violence and lawlessness - and has seen jihadist violence in its own country. Mogherini said that cooperation in the field of security was also discussed during the meeting with the Tunisian Prime Minister. Terrorism and the regional situation ‘concerns us greatly’, she said.
By Elske Idzenga
Sources: European Union; Modernghana; Alarabiya