The European Union is considering a “€900 million macro-financial” deal with crisis-hit Tunisia, European Commission chairwoman Ursula von der Leyen said on Sunday following talks between the EU, president Kais Saied, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte and Italian premier Giorgia Meloni.
As well as increased trade and investment for the cash-strapped country, the talks also centred on “addressing common migration challenges”, Von der Leyen said on Twitter.
Tunisia and the European Union have a lot to offer each other. That’s why President @vonderleyen 🇪🇺, Prime Minister @GiorgiaMeloni 🇮🇹 and I visited President Kais Saied (@TnPresidency) and Prime Minister Najla Bouden (@KasbahTn) in Tunisia today. We discussed a broad partnership… pic.twitter.com/vn7Fe75BiA
— Mark Rutte (@MinPres) June 11, 2023
That discussion includes the pledge to give €100 million to Tunisia for border checks, at-sea rescues and sending back illegal migrants. “We both have a major interest in breaking the cynical business model of smugglers and traffickers,” Von der Leyen said. “It is horrible to see how they deliberately risk human lives for profit.”
Rutte, who has pledged to do more to cut the number of asylum seekers reaching the Netherlands, described Sunday’s talks as “excellent”. There will be further talks over a variety of issues in the coming weeks, he told reporters.
However, Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld called for clarification following the statement.
“Which ‘common’ migration challenges, what concrete safeguards have been agreed on democracy & human rights,” she said on Twitter. “What legal basis for this deal? @Europarl_EN must demand full clarity on all details before a single eurocent is disbursed.”
Tunisian president Saied said shortly before the meeting that Tunisia would not be the border control for Europe if this would be detrimental to his own country.
Last week European immigration ministers reached an agreement in Luxemburg on how to deal with asylum seekers arriving at the bloc’s borders, in a move described by Dutch minister Eric van der Burg as “a very important step”.
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