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France and Tunisia

Presentation

Political relations

France has banked on the exemplary Tunisian transition, as evidenced by the French President’s opting to visit Tunisia three times in a year and a half: State visit to Tunisia in July 2013, followed by visits in February 2014 on the occasion of the adoption of the Tunisian Constitution and in March 2015, following the attack on the National Bardo Museum. Mr Laurent Fabius, French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, conducted several missions in Tunisia, including a joint visit with his German counterpart in April 2014, in order to highlight European unity in support of the success of the Tunisian transition.

In addition, the French Prime Minister and Mr Fabius visited Tunisia in September 2014 on the occasion of the “Investing in Tunisia, Start-up Democracy” conference co-chaired by France. Mr Bernard Cazeneuve, Minister of the Interior, visited Tunisia on 20 March 2015 to reinforce bilateral cooperation on security. Ms Fleur Pellerin, Minister of Culture and Communication, also visited Tunis in April 2015 to promote, in particular, the strengthening of cooperation between the Louvre Museum and the National Bardo Museum. Ms Annick Girardin, Minister of State for Development and Francophonie, also visited Tunis from 2 to 4 May 2015 on the occasion of the Youth Forum organized by France. Ms Christiane Taubira, Justice Minister and Keeper of the Seals, visited Tunis in September 2015 to strengthen judicial cooperation and promote counter-terrorism in accordance with the rule of law. Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defence, announced in October 2015 in Tunis the strengthening of defence cooperation with an allocation of €20 million over the next two years. Lastly, the Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced he would visit Tunis before the end of 2016 to chair the first meeting of the Franco-Tunisian high-level Council with his counterpart.

There have also been many visits to France by Tunisian officials. The former Tunisian President, Mr Moncef Marzouki, made an official visit to France from 17 to 19 July 2012. His successor, President Beji Caid Essebsi, was received on a State visit to France on 7-8 April 2015. It was a highly symbolic and comprehensive visit which marked a new page in the deepening of the Franco-Tunisian relationship. The Prime Minister, Habib Essid, was received at the Elysée by the French President and the Prime Minister. This visit was an opportunity to sign the Agreement on debt-for-development swap announced during President Essebsi’s visit in April 2015. During the visit, a €1 billion support plan for Tunisia over the next five years was also announced, primarily directed at disadvantaged regions and aid for Tunisian youth.

The increase in presidential and ministerial visits to both countries has made it possible to accompany Tunisia and the Tunisian people during the transition process and to establish a peer partnership with Tunisia, which acknowledges our country as a “natural gateway to Europe”.

Since the attack in Sousse on 26 June 2015 France has been mobilized for Tunisia at all levels and has advocated its economic and security support for the country. Local cooperation in G7+3 format was enabled in this context at the instigation of France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Main visits

  • 22 January 2016: visit by Habib Essid, Head of the Tunisian government, accompanied by: Mr Saïd Aïdi, Minister of Health, Mr Kamel Jendoubi, Minister in charge of Relations with Constitutional Institutions and Civil Society, and of Human Rights, and Mr Ridha Ben Mosbah, Economic Adviser to the Prime Minister.
  • 14 November 2015: visit by Mr Beji Caid Essebsi, President of the Republic of Tunisia, to present his condolences to President Hollande following the Paris attacks.
  • 5 October 2015: visit by Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defence.
  • 17-18 September: visit by Ms Christiane Taubira, Justice Minister and Keeper of the Seals.
  • 2-4 September 2015: visit to Tunis by Mr Alain Vidalies, Minister of State for Transport, the Sea and Fisheries.
  • 29 July 2015: visit to Paris by the Tunisian Minister of the Interior, Mr Mohamed Najem Gharsalli.
  • 29 June 2015: visit to Sousse by the French Minister of the Interior, Mr Bernard Cazeneuve.
  • 2-4 May 2015: visit to Tunisia by Ms Annick Girardin, Minister of State for Development and Francophonie.
  • 18-19 April 2015: visit to Tunisia by Ms Fleur Pellerin, Minister of Culture and Communication and the Digital Economy.
  • 7-8 April 2015: State visit by Beji Caid Essebsi, President of the Republic of Tunisia, accompanied by: Mr Taïeb Baccouche, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Latifa Lakhdhar, Minister of Culture and Heritage Conservation, and Mr Kamel Jendoubi, Minister to the Head of Government in charge of Relations with Constitutional Institutions and Civil Society.
  • 29 March 2015: visit to Tunisia by Mr François Hollande, President of the French Republic, Mr Claude Bartolone, President of the French National Assembly, and Mr Harlem Désir, Minister of State for European Affairs, on the occasion of the Tunis march against terrorism.
  • 20 March 2015: visit to Tunisia by Mr Bernard Cazeneuve, French Minister of the Interior.
  • 18-19 March 2015: visit to Paris by Mr Taïeb Baccouche, former Tunisian Minister of Foreign Affairs.
  • 16 January 2015: visit to Paris by Mr Mongi Hamdi, former Tunisian Minister of Foreign Affairs.
  • 5 January 2015: visit to Paris by Mr Mehdi Jomaa, former Tunisian Head of Government.
  • 1-2 December 2014: visit to Tunisia by Ms Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Minister of National Education, Higher Education and Research.
  • 31 October-1 November 2014: visit to Tunisia by Mr Bernard Cazeneuve, Minister of the Interior.
  • 30-31 October 2014: visit to Tunisia by Mr Stéphane Le Foll, Minister of Agriculture.
  • 7-8 September 2014: visit by Mr Manuel Valls, Prime Minister, Mr Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Mr Matthias Fekl, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of Tourism and French Nationals Abroad.
  • 28-30 April 2014: visit to Paris by Mr Mehdi Jomaa, Tunisian Head of Government.
  • 24-25 April 2014: joint visit to Tunis by Mr Laurent Fabius, French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, and his German counterpart.
  • 26 February 2014 visit to Paris by Mr Mongi Hamdi, Tunisian Minister of Foreign Affairs.
  • 7 February 2014: visit to Tunisia by Mr François Hollande, President of the French Republic.
  • 5-7 December 2013 : visit to Paris by the Tunisian President, Mr Moncef Marzouki, and Mr Othman Jerandi, Minister of Foreign Affairs, on the occasion of the Elysée Summit for Peace and Security in Africa.
  • 5 November 2013: visit by Mr Moncef Marzouki, President of the Tunisian Republic.
  • 4-5 July 2013: State visit by Mr François Hollande, President of the French Republic.
  • 14 May 2013: visit to Tunisia by Mr Laurent Fabius, French Minister of Foreign Affairs.
  • 6 March 2013: visit to France by Mr Mustapha Ben Jaafar, President of the National Constituent Assembly.
  • 5-6 February 2013: visit to Strasbourg (European Parliament) by Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki.
  • 20-21 September 2012: Mr Mustapha Ben Jaafar, President of the National Constituent Assembly, was invited to Strasbourg by the Conference of Speakers of Parliaments of the European Union.
  • 17-19 July 2012: official visit to France by Mr Moncef Marzouki, President of the Tunisian Republic.

Economic relations

France is historically one of the leading foreign investors in Tunisia. In 2013, it ranked first in terms of the number of businesses established in Tunisia (around 1300) and the number of direct jobs created. The French foreign direct investment (FDI) flow for 2012-2014 (€370 million) was the second-largest after Qatar (€515 million, with the purchase of Tunisiana by Oredoo in 2012), ahead of Italy and Germany (€100 million each). In 2014, France ranked first in terms of the number of businesses established in Tunisia (around 1300) and the number of direct jobs created (around 126,000). The major French foreign direct investments are focused on the manufacturing, mechanical and electronic industries. Tunisia has an FDI stock of €83 million in France.

Tunisia’s debt to France stands at €1.3 billion at current rates. France accounted for 50% of Tunisia’s bilateral claims (Japan followed with 19%) and 13% of its external debt (ranked third behind the African Development Bank (16%) and the European Investment Bank (14%), ahead of the World Bank (12.8%)).

Franco-Tunisian trade reached €7.4 billion in 2014 (as much as in 2013). France is Tunisia’s leading supplier with a 16% market share (€3.4 billion). French exports to Tunisia consist mainly of machinery and electrical equipment (one-third of our exports), textiles (15%) and transport equipment (13%). The trend in French exports has been uneven since the Revolution (18% in 2013 and 16% in 2012). Italy is Tunisia’s second-largest supplier with a 14.6% market share in 2014 (has been stable since 2010). Germany and China, after a sharp increase, have remained at 7%, while Algeria has risen to 6% (2.5% in 2011).

France is also Tunisia’s leading market with a 28% share in Tunisian exports. The flow consists mainly of textiles, leather and footwear (28%), electrical and household equipment (18%) and transport equipment (16%). Italy, with 19% of exports from Tunisia, is the second-largest market, ahead of Germany (10%).

France and Tunisia launched cooperation in the field of tourism in 2003 with the signing of a cooperation agreement and a work programme. In November 2014, France, in partnership with Austria, was awarded the EU-funded programme “Support for the implementation of a quality promotion system in the tourism sector” in the framework of a twinning operation with Tunisia. The programme’s objective is to enhance the international competitiveness of the destination Tunisia by establishing a quality promotion system in Tunisia.

In the post-attack context, France is stepping up additional efforts for Tunisia, both bilaterally (with, for example, a debt swap amounting to €60 million to build a new hospital at Gafsa) and internationally (advocacy before the EU and multilateral donors).

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

In order to take the new context into account, our cooperation has been redirected to give priority to issues of governance and, most importantly, civil society.

Our cooperation and cultural action are now geared to three priorities:

  • 1/ Support for Tunisian civil society and the development of its relations with French civil society
  • 2/ Support for establishing democracy and the rule of law
  • 3/ Contribution to initial and continued training of Tunisians

Promoting the French language is also an important focus of our cooperation. The French language is recognized as a “foreign language with a special status” in Tunisia. It is therefore taught throughout the school career. The diplomatic post helps to promote the French language through the Language Centre of the French Institute in Tunisia and the network of French school establishments (AEFE, Agency for French Education Abroad) hosting more than 3200 Tunisian children out of a total of 7200 students). In addition, there were more than 11,000 Tunisian students in France in 2011.

Furthermore, the French Development Agency (AFD) has played a central role in Franco-Tunisian cooperation since 1992 through the volume of its commitments and by supporting major economic and social reforms. Over the past five years, commitment authorizations and payments in Tunisia amounted to an average of €115 million a year. These amounts have made Tunisia one of the AFD’s leading partners. 2014 has been an exceptional year, with €219 million in commitments which demonstrated the will to accompany the country in its economic transition.

Updated: 26/01/2016

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