Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, said: ‘At the TUNISIA 2020 international conference which I attended I was able to announce that the European Union is committed to continuing to support Tunisia to ensure the transition to democracy and guarantee socioeconomic development for all its citizens. The action programme which we are adopting for 2016 demonstrates our desire to contribute immediately to improving the living conditions of Tunisia’s people. Our efforts this year will focus primarily on social infrastructure, standards of basic services in the most deprived regions and neighbourhoods and support for reforms in public administration and the education sector.’
The 2016 financial support package for Tunisia will consist of four programmes:
1) The ‘Programme to support the modernisation of public administration and public undertakings, in support of the 2016-2020 Development Plan’ (€73.5 million) aims to assist Tunisia in the process of reforming its public administration with a view to increasing the effectiveness, efficiency, quality and transparency of public services and public undertakings.
2) The ‘Programme of support for education, mobility, research and innovation’ (€60 million) is intended to improve access to a high quality education system, making it possible to increase the employability of young people and stimulate socioeconomic integration. This measure, which is targeted particularly at Tunisia’s young people, will complement the major investment by the EU in vocational training. It provides for a mobility component which will allow 1 500 Tunisian students and teachers to access mobility grants under the ERASMUS+ programme. The support for the research and innovation system will promote greater participation by Tunisian researchers and institutions in the Horizon 2020 programme with which Tunisia has been associated since 1 January 2016.
3) The ‘Pilot initiative on integrated local development’ (€60 million) seeks to support the process of decentralisation enshrined in the Constitution and to reduce development disparities between the coastal regions and the interior.
4) The ‘Programme to support the health sector in Tunisia’ (€20 million) aims to assist Tunisia in strengthening its health system by improving the quality and accessibility of health services for all.
The programmes adopted today, financed by the European Neighbourhood Instrument, translate into action the guidelines set out in the Joint Communication of the Commission and the High Representative on Strengthening EU support for Tunisia, adopted on 29 September 2016. That Communication reaffirmed the enhanced commitment of the European Union to support the reforms currently being undertaken by the Tunisian Government in order to complete the transition to democracy and to ensure the country’s socioeconomic development.
Since 2011, the EU has more than doubled its financial contribution to cooperation with Tunisia. The country is also the principal beneficiary, in the Southern Neighbourhood, of the ‘umbrella’ programme, which allows for increased European financial support to partners working to strengthen democracy and human rights. The combination of grants (over €1.2 billion), macrofinancial assistance (MFA − €800 million) and loans, including those from the European Investment Bank (€1.5 billion), will bring total support to Tunisia from 2011 to 2016 to approximately €3.5 billion. The scale of the support reflects the EU’s firm commitment to the country. As well as increased support, the last five years have ushered in more diverse approaches and forms of assistance to address Tunisia’s needs in the wake of its historic democratic transition.