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Outgoing Prime Minister Rutti visits Tunisia again on Sunday, together with Italian Prime Minister Meloni and European Commission President von der Leyen, in connection with the immigration deal the European Union wants to conclude with that country.
They will meet again with President Kais Saied in the capital, Tunis. Last June, the first steps towards an immigration deal were taken. Then the European Union promised to make significant investments. In return, Tunisia must commit to improving border security and tackling people smuggling.
In the long term, the North African country could receive 900 million euros in financial support, and it is already receiving 150 million euros. The money is intended for investment in trade and energy so that the Tunisian economy will improve.
With the agreement, Tunisia will also receive 100 million euros for border control, rescue operations and the return of migrants. Rota, Meloni and von der Leyen had hoped to reach an agreement at the first meeting with Saied, before the EU summit at the end of June, but failed to do so.
Tunisia is the most important transit country for people who want to go to Europe, in part because of its convenient location. Half of the migrants arriving in Italy this year have traveled via Tunisia.
After the first visit, Rutte said EU leaders and Tunisian President Saied had “excellent talks” but no final agreement was reached. Those talks will continue this weekend.
And outgoing Prime Minister Rutte did not want to predict the outcome of the consultations at his weekly press conference: “It’s good to see how far we can go. If we don’t see any progress, we won’t go there.”
Rutte said he was not sure an agreement would be reached and could not say exactly what he was counting on. “These are very risky operations, so I can’t say that. We think there’s a reason to go,” Rutte said.
In this brief explanation we explain why the immigration debate within the European Union persists:
Why the EU immigration debate continues
Meanwhile, relatives of Tunisian opposition politicians have expressed concerns about a possible immigration deal. They describe the deal as irresponsible, ill-considered and counterproductive.
“Europe rewards a dictator who causes trouble and does not show loyalty to values such as human rights and freedom, which is what Europe always talks about,” Yousra Ghannouchi told NOS at the end of June.
Ghannouchi is the daughter of imprisoned opposition leader and former parliament speaker Rached Ghannouchi. Then she, along with other relatives of opposition politicians, made an appeal to watch their country closely at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Europe should care
According to family members, a migration deal worth hundreds of millions of euros gives legitimacy primarily to Saied’s government, and plenty of money keeps an authoritarian ruler in the saddle, among whom more migrants have attempted to cross the Mediterranean by boat.
Ghannouchi: “Europe must be concerned. Kais Saied is not a reliable and rational player that Europe can count on. One day he says one thing to European leaders, and the next day he denies it to the Tunisian media.”
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