France and Tunisia

Political relations

France is counting on Tunisia’s transition serving as a model, as was seen by President Hollande’s choice to travel to Tunisia three times in a year and a half: State visit to Tunisia in July 2013, followed by trips in February 2014 for the adoption of the Tunisian Constitution and in March 2015 following the attack on the Bardo Museum. The former Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development made several trips to Tunisia, including a joint visit with his German counterpart in April 2014 to highlight Europe’s united support for Tunisia.

Further, the Prime Minister travelled to Tunisia in September 2014 for the “Invest in Tunisia: Start-up Democracy” conference, co-chaired by France. MrBernard Cazeneuve, Minister of the Interior, visited Tunisia on 20 March 2015 to reinforce bilateral cooperation on security. The Culture Minister visited Tunis in April 2015 to promote increased cooperation between the Louvre and Bardo Museums. The Minister of State for Development and Francophonie was in Tunis from 2-4 May 2015 for the Youth Forum co-organized by France.

The Justice Minister travelled to Tunis in September 2015 to increase our judicial cooperation and promote counter-terrorism in line with the rule of law. In October 2015, French Defence Minister, Mr Le Drian, announced increased defence cooperation of €20 million for the following two years. Mr Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, chose Tunisia for his first visit to the Maghreb on 17-18 March 2016. He represented France at the ceremony paying tribute to the victims of the Bardo Museum attack. Finally, Prime Minister Valls announced that he would travel to Tunis by the end of 2016 to chair the first French-Tunisian high-level council with his counterpart.

There have also been many visits to France by Tunisian officials. The former Tunisian President, Mr Marzouki, made an official visit to France on 17-19 July 2012. His successor, President Essebsi, made a State visit to France on 7-8 April2015. It was a highly symbolic and comprehensive visit which opened a new chapter in the deepening of French-Tunisian relations. The Prime Minister, Habib Essid, was received at the Elysée by the French President and 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 focusing on deprived 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

  • 17 and 18 March 2016: Visit by Mr Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, to represent France at the Bardo ceremony.
  • 22 January 2016: Visit by Habib Essid, Head of the Tunisian government, accompanied by: Mr Saïd Aïdi, Minister of Health, Mr KamelJendoubi, Minister in charge of Relations with Constitutional Institutions and Civil Society, and of Human Rights, and MrRidha BenMosbah, Economic Adviser to the Prime Minister.
  • 14 November: Visit by Mr Beji Caid Essebsi, President of the Republic of Tunisia, to offer his condolences to President Hollande following the Paris attacks.
  • 5 October: Visit by MrJean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defence.
  • 17-18 September: Visit by MsChristiane Taubira, Justice Minister and Keeper of the Seals.
  • 2-4 September: Visit by MrAlainVidalies, Minister of State for Transport, Marine Affairs and Fisheries.
  • 29 July: Visit by the Tunisian Minister of the Interior, Mr Gharsalli.
  • 29 June: Visit to Sousse by the French Minister of the Interior, Mr Cazeneuve.
  • 2-4 May: Visit by Ms Girardin, Minister of State for Development and Francophonie.
  • 18-19 April 2015: Visit by Ms Fleur Pellerin, Minister of Culture, Communication and the Digital Economy.
  • 7 and 8 April 2015: State visit by Beji Caid Essebsi, President of the Republic of Tunisia, accompanied by: Mr Taïeb Baccouche, Minister of Foreign Affairs, MsLatifaLakhdhar, Minister of Culture and Heritage Conservation, and Mr KamelJendoubi, Minister to the Head of Government in charge of Relations with Constitutional Institutions and Civil Society.
  • 29 March 2015: Visit by MrFrançois Hollande, President of the French Republic, MrClaudeBartolone, President of the French National Assembly, and MrHarlemDésir, Minister of State for European Affairs, on the occasion of the Tunis march against terrorism.
  • 20 March 2015: Visit by MrBernard Cazeneuve, French Minister of the Interior
  • 18-19 March 2015: Visit by MrTaïeb Baccouche, former Tunisian Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • 16 January 2015: Visit to Paris by MrMongi Hamdi, former Tunisian Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • 5 January 2015: Visit by Mr Mehdi Jomaa, former Tunisian Head of Government.
  • 1-2 December 2014: Visit by Ms Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Minister of National Education, Higher Education and Research.
  • 31 October - 1 November 2014: visit by Mr Bernard Cazeneuve, Minister of the Interior
  • 30-31 October 2014: Visit by MrStéphane Le Foll, Minister of Agriculture
  • 7-8 September 2014: Visit by MrManuel Valls, Prime Minister, MrLaurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and MrMatthias Fekl, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of Tourism and French Nationals Abroad.
  • 28-30 April 2014: Visit by MrMehdi Jomaa, Tunisian Head of Government
  • 24-25 April 2014: Joint visit by MrLaurent Fabius, French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, and his German counterpart.
  • 26 February 2014: Visit by MrMongi Hamdi, Tunisian Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • 7 February 2014: Visit by MrFrançoisHollande, President of the French Republic
  • 5-7 December 2013: Visit by the Tunisian President, Mr MoncefMarzouki, and MrOthman 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 MrFrançois Hollande, President of the French Republic
  • 14 May 2013: Visit by MrLaurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • 6 March 2013: Visit 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 European Conference of Presidents of Parliament
  • 17-19 July 2012: Official visit by Mr Moncef Marzouki, President of the Tunisian Republic

Economic relations

France has historically been one of the leading investors in Tunisia. It provided the largest FDI flows (excluding energy) for 2013-2015 (€320 million), ahead of Qatar (€185 million), Italy (€95 million), the United Arab Emirates (€90 million) and Germany (€85 million). In 2015, France ranked first in terms of the number of businesses set up in Tunisia (around 1,300) and the number of direct jobs created (around 127,000). 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%)).

French-Tunisian trade reached €7.6billion in 2015. France is Tunisia’s leading supplier with an 18% market share. 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 29% 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, €1 billion support plan over 5 years) and internationally (advocacy before the EU and multilateral donors).

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

Our cooperation and cultural action now has three priorities:

  • 1/ Supporting Tunisian civil society and the development of its relations with French civil society
  • 2/ Supporting the establishment of democracy and the rule of law
  • 3/ Contributing to the initial and continued training of TunisiansPromoting the French language is an important part of our cooperation. As a “foreign language with special status” in Tunisia, it is taught at all levels of the educational system. 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 French-Tunisian cooperation since 1992 through the volume of its commitments and by supporting major economic and social reforms. Tunisia is the AFD’s second largest intervention country in terms of volume and the largest in terms of interventions per capita. The years 2014 and 2015 were exceptional, with respective commitments of €230 million and €220 million demonstrating the will to support the country in its economic transition. Finally, the AFD is one of the main operators of the €1 billion plan announced by President Hollande in January 2016.

Updated: 29 March 2016