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France and Tunisia

Political relations

Tunisia is a priority for France and our relations are very strong.

The French President spoke with Mr Kais Saied on 14 October, just after he was elected President of the Tunisian Republic. He met with President Saied’s predecessor, Mr Beji Caid Essebsi, on several occasions, and made a state visit to Tunisia from 31 January to 1 February 2018. President Macron attended President Essebsi’s funeral in Tunis on 27 July 2019.

Prime Minister Édouard Philippe chose to make Tunisia the destination of his first visit outside the European Union. He was received in Tunis on 5 October 2017 by President Essebsi and the Tunisian Head of Government, Mr Youssef Chahed, with whom he inaugurated the “Rencontres Africa” and co-chaired the first Franco-Tunisian High-Level Cooperation Council. The French Prime Minister co-chaired the second meeting of the High-Level Cooperation Council alongside his Tunisian counterpart, Mr Youssef Chahed, in Paris on 14 February 2019, and they also met on 11 November 2019, on the sidelines of the Paris Peace Forum.

Accompanied by 10 ministers, Mr Youssef Chahed made an official visit to Paris from 13 to 15 February 2019, on the occasion of the High-Level Cooperation Council, meeting with the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister and the Presidents of the Senate, the National Assembly and the Constitutional Council. An agreement on international passenger road transport was signed, as were two Agence Française de Développement (AFD, French Development Agency) funding agreements in the health field. Mr Chahed’s first visit to Paris was on 9 and 10 November 2016.

Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, also chose Tunisia for his first visit to the Arab world and his first visit outside Europe, travelling to Tunis on 4 and 5 June 2017. He visited Tunis on 22 July 2018, on the way to Libya, on 21 and 22 October 2018, and again on 19 March 2019, before continuing to Libya.

The Minister again visited Tunisia on 9 January 2020, meeting President Saied.

French presence

23,253 French nationals live in Tunisia
A Consulate-General in Tunis

Visits

  • 9 January 2020: visit to Tunis by Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs.
  • 11 November 2019: visit to Paris by the Tunisian Head of Government, Mr Youssef Chahed, for the Paris Peace Forum.
  • 17 September 2019: visit by the Tunisian Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Mr Slim Khalbous, to co-chair the steering committee of the Franco-Tunisian University for Africa and the Mediterranean (UFTAM).
  • 27 July 2019: visit to Tunis by the French President for the funeral of President Beji Caid Essebsi.
  • 19 March 2020: visit to Tunis by Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs.
  • 13-15 February 2019: official visit to Paris by the Head of the Tunisian Government, Mr Youssef Chahed, with a delegation of 10 ministers, for the second meeting of the High-Level Cooperation Council.
  • 11 November 2018: participation of President Beji Caid Essebsi in the Paris Peace Forum, on the occasion of the commemorations of the First World War armistice centenary.
  • 21-22 October 2018: visit by Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs.
  • 22 July 2018: visit by Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs.
  • 25 June 2018: visit by Mr Sabri Bachtobji, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, received by Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Minister of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to co-chair the monitoring and preparatory committee for the High-Level Cooperation Council.
  • 29 May 2018: Mr Beji Caid Essebsi, President of Tunisia, attended the conference on Libya.
  • 31 January-1 February 2018: state visit by the French President.

Ambassadors

French Ambassador to Tunisia: Mr Olivier Poivre d’Arvor
Tunisian Ambassador to France: None currently appointed

Economic relations

France and Tunisia have strong trade and financial relations. In 2018, France was Tunisia’s leading trading partner, as the destination for almost 30% of Tunisian exports and the source of more than 14% of its imports.

France is also the country’s leading source of foreign direct investment. While Tunisia has a structural trade deficit, France has a bilateral trade deficit with Tunisia which stood at €1.2 billion in 2018. In recent years, France has lost market share and in 2017 lost its position as leading supplier falling behind Italy.

French exports to Tunisia stood at €3.2 billion in 2016, down 10% on 2015. Excluding the years when aerospace equipment has been delivered, France’s exports to Tunisia are tending to lose market share, in favour of emerging countries such as China or Turkey. France, which in the past had been Tunisia’s leading supplier, fell behind Italy in 2017. However, France maintains its traditional position as Tunisia’s leading customer with nearly 30% of the country’s exports going to France.

France has a very strong presence in Tunisia, with a total of around 140,000 people employed by French companies, particularly in industrial and service sectors.

During his state visit in 2018, the French President committed to double the investments of French companies in Tunisia. This ambitious objective is fuelling enhanced cooperation between the two countries.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

Our cooperation and cultural action now has three priorities:

  • Supporting Tunisian civil society and the development of its relations with French civil society;
  • Supporting the establishment of democracy and the rule of law;
  • Contributing to the initial and continued training of Tunisians.

French cultural cooperation is aimed in priority at young people and new audiences within civil society, which can be seen in artistic exchanges, debates and support for new media outlets. Promoting our expertise in museums and heritage as well as supporting young artists and cultural players are also important.

Promoting 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 schools (AEFE, Agency for French Education Abroad), with more than 3,200 Tunisian children enrolled out of a total of 7,200 students.

On 4 October 2019, our two Higher Education Ministers inaugurated the Franco-Tunisian University for Africa and the Mediterranean (UFTAM). The project’s main aims are to foster employability, Tunisia’s position as a training hub for Africa, and teaching in French.

Furthermore, the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) has played a central role in French-Tunisian cooperation since 1992 through the volume of its commitments and by supporting major reforms. Tunisia is the AFD’s second largest intervention country in terms of volume and the largest in terms of interventions per capita. The AFD is the main deliverer of the €1.7 billion plan that will run until 2022. During his state visit from 31 January to 1 February 2018, the French President announced the renewal of the AFD’s commitments for two years (at €250 million per year for 2021 and 2022). The AFD is responsible for the implementation of the “Young Entrepreneurs in Tunisia” (JET) programme, worth €50 million over three years.

Updated: March 2020