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Press release
 

Parliament will stand by Tunisia in its transition to democracy, say MEPs

External relations - 02-10-2012 - 19:09
Committee : Foreign Affairs
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Parliament will do everything possible to promote economic, social and political transition in Tunisia, Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs told its head of government Hamadi Jebali on Tuesday. Mr Jebali said that Tunisia means to become a democratic and inclusive state, with a constitution that protects women's rights. He also called on MEPs to back Tunisia's efforts to recover its assets in the EU.

The key challenges on Mr Jebali's list were making the democratic transition a success, ensuring fair distribution of wealth, tackling unemployment and improving health services.


A democratic state that "serves citizens" and protects women's rights


Asked by MEPs about Tunisia's secular character, Mr Jebali said: "We do not want a theocratic state but a democratic one, that serves citizens, and which will ensure the equality of all regardless of their origin or religion, including gender equality".


Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck (ALDE, BE), called on Tunisia to do more than other countries in the region to protect women's rights. Mr Jebali replied that not even Tunisia's most extremist elements wish to reduce these rights.


New constitution "by the beginning of next year"


Work on Tunisia's new constitution, which was due by the end of October, had been delayed but should be completed by the start of 2013, Mr Jebali said in reply to questions by various MEPs, including Fiorello Provera (EFD, IT).


Returning Tunisian assets


Replying to Mr Jebali's plea that MEPs back Tunisia's efforts to recover assets  frozen or stolen in the aftermath of the revolution and now held in the EU, Ana Gomes (S&D, PT) retorted: "We are exercising pressure on our governments to make sure these assets are returned to you. But for this, we need more cooperation and transparency from your side."


"Lessons learnt" from the September attacks


José Ignacio Salafranca (EPP, ES), asked what measures has Tunisia taken to prevent any recurrence of the September 2012 attacks against the US embassy and an American school in Tunisia.


''Lessons have been learnt" replied Mr Jebali, stressing that "Tunisian people were united in rejecting this behaviour." He regretted that the attacks had obscured efforts to create "an open and modern society which believes in dialogue and not in violent oppression".


Reform of judiciary and security forces


"What are you doing to make sure the security forces serve democracy?" asked Hélène Flautre (Greens/EFA, FR), recalling that the security forces and judiciary had served the former regime and had been involved in acts of violence, torture and rape.


"The main pillars of the former regime desperately need to be reformed," Mr Jabali admitted,,adding that "it is not a good idea to replace the whole system, but we want to enshrine the independence of the judiciary and the democratic nature of the security services.".


Yes to EU observers for next elections


"The Arab awakening must not become an Arab winter," warned Charles Tannock (ECR, UK). "I do not believe it can - it is a historic process," replied Mr Jebali.


"There should be no reticence or hesitation when it comes to inviting observers" to Tunisia's parliamentary elections next year said Mr Jebali said in another reply, encouraging the European Parliament to start working on the composition of its delegation.  


In the chair: Fiorello PROVERA (EFD, IT)

 
REF.: 20121002IPR52722