Now that the election hurricane has calmed down and the daily life in Tunisia is regaining normal pace, the EU delegation can focus on more structural affairs. The political section is drafting scenarios for the future political constellation. The section responsible for development cooperation has launched several ambitious programs.
During the pas months, the EU Delegation has had quite some work on the daily reporting daily to Brussels. The European Commission wants to stay informed on all developments in Tunisia, and we as a Delegation have to keep them updated and deliver analyses. Furthermore, the Delegation had a lot of work with the election observation mission and the many incoming visits of EU Officials. Now that these duties demand less attention, there is more attention for structural affairs.
In the political section we are working on the analysis of the future political landscape. Who will take seat in the government, what are the main questions for the Constitution and how do parties function in the parliament? Next to these kind of analyses, we also explore possibilities to support the future Constituent Assembly. In Europe there is a long parliamentary tradition and a lot of knowledge and expertise on reaching consensus in a pluralistic democracy. Tunisia has a history of parliamentary governance too – its first parliament was set up in 1956. However, the past decades the parliament has not functioned properly anymore. Over 90% of the seats belonged to the ruling party and any resistance was not expected, neither accepted. The new members of the Constituent Assembly and their support staff can therefore benefit from the experience of European members of Parliament. Such assistance can of course only be provided if on the demand of the Tunisian authorities.
… to prosperity…
The EU Delegation is not only about politics. A team of EU experts is working throughout the year on support programs for the socioeconomic development of Tunisia. Three large scale projects have been started recently and will have to contribute to the recovery of the Tunisian economy, sustainable water management and Good Governance.
The revolution and the elections are after all just one side of the new Tunisia. The other side is the Tunisia in need of thorough reforms. A system of corruption in the domestic economy has been maintained for years, natural resource management has been neglected and some sections of the population and inward regions have been ignored. This year’s revolution has brought it so far that we can now freely speak about these abuses, the elections have appointed democratically elected representatives who will work on these challenges. Before everything, it is now a question of starting the real work. The newly elected government will have to create jobs and to invest in the sustainable development of the country. The EU tries to contribute to this.
… and from heroism to reality
Besides the serious work there was an amusing encounter. A couple of weeks ago the European Parliament honoured Mohamed Bouaziz with the Sacharov award. This prize is rewarded each year to someone who devoted itself to the freedoms of humanity and human rights. Mohamed is the young man that lit himself on fire last year, an act of desperation about the lack of economic possibilities, which is seen as the spark that set in course the Tunisian Revolution.
The EU Ambassador visited Mohamed’s family members. His mother, sisters, brothers and uncle live together in a suburb of Tunis. After a chat about the meaning of the Sacharov decoration, the Ambassador informed about the daily life of the Bouazizi’s. Remarkably enough, the family’s struggles are typical for the problems of the Tunisian society: the male family members have jobs with which they just keep up the whole family, there is no real poverty. However, the brother and uncle of Mohamed want to do more than the current meaningless jobs they are doing. Brother Salem applied for a loan in several banks, in order to start a small carpenter’s shed. He was denied because of the lack of own funds or other security.the Bouazizi’s want more. Both Mohamed’s sisters dream of studying abroad. The youngest wants to start her studies in France, the eldest want to continue her masters in Canada. The means to finance these studies lack and moreover it is complicated to obtain a visa. And therefore the Bouazizi are quite typical for many Tunisian families: a lot of ambition but a lack of possibilities. Let’s hope that a democratically elected government can change this state of play!
EU Ambassador A. Koetsenruijter flanked by the mother and sister of Mohamed Bouazizi, who’s portrait can be seen in the back.