EP President Speech at the Opening of Tunisian Week
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"Ladies and gentlemen,
I should like to welcome you to the European Parliament for this busy Tunisia Week, which we are confident will be as much of a success as the partnership between the European Union and Tunisia.
I should like to thank all those who have worked so hard to organise this meeting. Thank you dear Enrique Barón Crespo, thank you dear Michael Gahler, thank you also to all our staff.
Dear Mohamed Ennaceur, I am delighted to welcome you here today. As I said just now, there are a large number of issues that we will need to address together during our bilateral meeting.
Starting with the need to consolidate the democratic transition. Six years after the Tunisian revolution, this is of key importance. I would stress that the European Union has brought considerable resources to bear in this connection, and, since 2011, has provided political, financial and technical support for the democratic transition process.
And the European Parliament was the first European institution to react, by calling for an ambitious response from Europe in support of democracy in the southern Mediterranean.
The European Parliament also has its own programme of measures to help the Tunisian Parliament build up its capacity.
Europe is Tunisia’s leading partner in a number of areas. The strategic partnership between the European Union and Tunisia is firmly established. Its aim is to promote social, economic and technological development in Tunisia, alongside the democratic development of the country.
The European Union has been providing Tunisia with support in addressing the economic challenges it has been facing since the revolution. The European Parliament has called for the swift implementation of the 2016-2020 strategic development plan.
You can count on our support; we are in favour of stepping up European Union assistance under the various partnership instruments. It is important not only to consolidate economic growth, but also to ensure that it is sustainable.
I also firmly believe that stepping up our negotiations with a view to swift implementation of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement will help to secure sustainable development.
I am pleased to see that, after rather worrying figures for 2015 and 2016, tourist numbers are on the rise again in 2017. Tunisia’s cultural wealth is built on hospitality, generosity and a rich and varied history. We will be given a glimpse of that wealth when your cultural exhibition opens this evening.
The relationship between economic development and security is also a key consideration.
The victims of the terrorist attacks in your country are still very much in my thoughts. Terrorism is a terrible problem, with which we are all struggling. Closer cooperation in this area is therefore vital. It is equally vital in efforts to combat radicalisation. Education can address the problem at source, but dealing with people who have already been radicalised is rather more difficult.
Let me now say a few words on the very important issue of migration and the support that is provided for the reintegration of migrants in their countries of origin. 2015 saw an unprecedented migration crisis in the Mediterranean. This issue has now become a key priority in our ‘global strategy’. We are therefore proposing a new partnership framework that offers development and economic growth opportunities at local level in the countries of origin.
For it is only by targeting the deep-rooted drivers of irregular migration that we can hope to turn the tide.
I therefore stand fully behind the ‘Mobility Partnership’ that has been concluded between the EU, 10 individual Member States and Tunisia, in order to combat people trafficking. And I warmly congratulate Tunisia for its launch in February of an official body to lead efforts in this area. It is indeed essential that we closely target networks that prey on vulnerable people, including migrants.
I also firmly believe that the ‘unique relationship’ that exists between the European Union and Tunisia should spur more investment projects, especially those geared towards supporting young people. Unemployment, and youth unemployment in particular, remains stubbornly high in Europe and in your country.
Both Tunisia and the European Union need to generate growth and employment. SMEs are central to this aim.
I am proposing that we bring the full force of our economic diplomacy to bear to help promote our respective business communities and to forge commercial opportunities between them. Also, let me stress again our desire that Tunisia should be able to draw without delay on the EU programme for business competitiveness which works to ensure that SMEs gain access to funding and win market share.
As you know, Tunisia is eligible for the external strand of the investment plan announced by President Juncker.
Finally, let me stress once again the importance of the EU-Tunisia partnership for young people. We must do all we can to promote education, jobs and mobility for young people.
I am therefore especially pleased to see the young Tunisian parliamentarians among us today, here as part of our Young Political Leaders programme. And I hope that your participation will add fresh momentum to the policies and projects we will pursue to tackle issues specific to young people. We must open up new and attractive opportunities for Tunisian youth.
Ladies and gentlemen, the issues I have touched upon are all on the agenda of this week’s meetings: this event is an important opportunity that we must take in order to strengthen the ties that exist between us.
The views of your Assembly deserve to be heard more clearly and your important work shared more widely.
Let me thank you again, dear colleagues, for being here today and for your active participation over the coming days. You can be sure that your contribution is of particular importance.
Thank you for your attention."