France and Tunisia

Political relations

Tunisia is a priority for France, as shown by the numerous bilateral visits. Very soon after his investiture, the President of the French Republic met his Tunisian counterpart, President Essebsi, on 27 May alongside the G7 summit in Taormina.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs chose Tunisia for his first visit to the Arab world and his first visit outside Europe to Tunis on 4 and 5 June 2017. The Prime Minister also 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 head of the Tunisian government, Youssef Chahed, with whom he inaugurated the “Rencontres Africa” and co-chaired the first Franco-Tunisian High-Level Cooperation Council. Frédérique Vidal, Minister for Higher Education, Research and Innovation, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Minister of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs and Benjamin Griveaux, Minister of State attached to the Minister of the Economy and Finance, participated in this High-Level Cooperation Council. The aim of this High-Level Council is to give structure to the bilateral relationship between France and Tunisia in accordance with key priorities, to strengthen bilateral cooperation in the fields of economy, security, higher education and research, culture and the Francophonie.

President Beji Caib Essebsi made a State Visit to France in April 2015 and a visit in November 2015 following the attacks in Paris. The head of the Tunisian government, Mr Youssef Chahed, made an official visit to Paris on 9 and 10 November 2016. President Hollande visited Tunisia three times during his mandate (State visit in July 2013, visit in February 2014 during the adoption of the Tunisian Constitution, and March 2015 following the Bardo attack).

France is committed to helping Tunisia respond to the security and economic challenges it is facing. Local cooperation in an enlarged G7 format has been developed in these fields and at the instigation of France, Germany and the United Kingdom since the Sousse attacks on 26 June 2015.

Visits

  • 5 October 2017 visit to Tunisia by the French Prime Minister, Mr Edouard Philippe, accompanied by Frédérique Vidal, Minister for Higher Education, Research and Innovation, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Minister of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs and Benjamin Griveaux, Minister of State attached to the Minister of the Economy and Finance.
  • 23-24 July 2017: visit by Mr Gérard Collomb, Minister of the Interior
  • 14 to 15 July 2017: visit by Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Minister of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs.
  • 4 and 5 June 2017: Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs.
  • 6-7 April 2017: Visit by Mr Bernard Cazeneuve, Prime Minister.
  • 24-27 February 2017: Visit by Mr Samir Taieb, the Tunisian Minister of Agriculture, Water Resources and Fisheries, at the agriculture trade show in Paris.
  • 23-24 February 2017: Visit by Mr Slim Khalbous, Tunisian Minister for Higher Education.
  • 9-10 February 2017: Visit by Ms Audrey Azoulay, Minister of Culture, to participate in “5+5 Culture” in Tunis.
  • 25-26 January 2017: Visit by Ms Lamia Zribi, Tunisian Minister of Finance to participate in “5+5 Finance” in Paris.
  • 13 December 2016: Visit by Mr Hedi Majdoub, Tunisian Minister of the Interior.
  • 28-29 November 2016: Visit by Mr Manuel Valls, Prime Minister, to represent France in the economic investor conference “Tunisia 2020”.
  • 9-10 November 2016: Visit by Mr Youssef Chahed, Head of the Tunisian Government, accompanied by: Mr Fadhel Abdelkefi, Tunisian Minister of Development, Investment and International Cooperation, Selma Elloumi Rekik, Tunisian Minister of Tourism and Crafts, and Iyad Dahmani, Tunisian Minister of Parliamentary Relations.
  • 22 January 2016: Visit by Mr Habib Essid, Head of the Tunisian government, accompanied by: Saïd Aïdi, Minister for Health, Kamel Jendoubi, Minister in charge of Relations with Constitutional Institutions and Civil Society, and of Human Rights, and Ridha Ben Mosbah, Economic Adviser to the Prime Minister. Announcement by France of a support plan of €1 billion over 5 years and signature of a conversion of €60 million of debt into a development project.
  • 14 November 2015: Visit by Beji Caid Essebsi, President of the Republic of Tunisia, to offer his condolences to President Hollande following the Paris attacks.
  • 7-8 April 2015: State visit by Beji Caid Essebsi, President of the Republic of Tunisia, accompanied by: Taïeb Baccouche, Tunisian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Latifa Lakhdhar, Tunisian Minister of Culture and Heritage Conservation, and Kamel Jendoubi, Tunisian Minister to the Head of Government in charge of Relations with Constitutional Institutions and Civil Society.
  • 29 March 2015: Visit by François Hollande, President of the French Republic, Claude Bartolone, President of the French National Assembly, and Harlem Désir, French Minister of State for European Affairs, on the occasion of the Tunis march against terrorism.
  • 7-8 September 2014: visit by Manuel Valls, French Prime Minister, Laurent Fabius, French Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Matthias Fekl, French Minister of State for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of Tourism and French Nationals Abroad.
  • 28-30 April 2014: visit by Mehdi Jomaa, Head of the Tunisian Government
  • 7 February 2014: visit by François Hollande, President of the French Republic, for the adoption of the new Tunisian constitution
  • 5-7 December 2013: visit by President of the Tunisian Republic, Moncef Marzouki, and Othman Jerandi, Tunisian Minister of Foreign Affairs, on the occasion of the Élysée Summit for Peace and Security in Africa
  • 5 November 2013: visit by Moncef Marzouki, President of the Tunisian Republic
  • 4-5 July 2013: State visit by François Hollande, President of the French Republic
  • 17 to 19 July 2012: Official visit by the President of the Tunisian Republic, Moncef Marzouki

Economic relations

With Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) of nearly €1.4 billion in 2016, France is the second-largest investor in Tunisia (16% of FDI), behind the United Arab Emirates. This represents roughly 1,300 companies and 135,000 jobs making France the leading country from this perspective. With 15% of incoming FDI flows between 2011 and 2016, France is the leading provider of FDI since the revolution. France is the leading investor in Tunisia’s manufacturing and services sectors. In 2016, France remained the leading investor excluding the energy sector (€150 million, a third of FDI in Tunisia, a 30% increase on 2015), ahead of Germany (14%) and the United Kingdom (8%).

Tunisia’s debt to France stands at €1.3 billion at current rates. France accounts for 50% of Tunisia’s bilateral debt (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%)).

In 2016, trade between Tunisia and France exceeded €7.4 billion, an decrease of 2.5% compared with 2015.

French exports to Tunisia reached €3.2 billion in 2016, down 16% on 2015. French exports to Tunisia consist mainly of machinery and electrical equipment (one-third of our exports), textiles (15%) and transport equipment (13%). France is historically Tunisia’s leading trading partner, a position which is under threat, with only 15% market share in 2016, an all-time low. Tunisia’s other traditional trading partners have also declined: Italy (second partner with nearly 15%) and Germany (fourth at 8%). In contrast, some emerging countries have seen their position strengthen, most notably China (third-largest partner at 9%), Algeria and Turkey (both 5%).

France is also the leading destination for Tunisian exports with approximately a third of Tunisian exports destined for France. The manufacturing industry is particularly dynamic between France and Tunisia, illustrating the success of the outsourcing and outfitting models in Tunisia aimed at export. Imports of machines, devices and electrical equipment account for 38% of total while the textiles sector accounts for 28% and agrifood products 10%. 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: “Qualité Tourisme Tunisie”.

France is making additional efforts for Tunisia following the 2015 attacks, from a bilateral perspective (France announced that it would go further in its mission to convert debt into development projects in addition to the €60 million for the construction of a hospital in Gafsa, and a support plan of €1.2 billion by 2020 implemented by the AFD), and an international perspective (support for the EU and multilateral donors).

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

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

  1. 1. Supporting Tunisian civil society and the development of its relations with French civil society
  2. 2. Supporting the establishment of democracy and the rule of law
  3. 3. 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. This is achieved by 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 aspects of this cooperation.

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) hosting more than 3,200 Tunisian children out of a total of 7,200 students.

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 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 AFD is the main operator of the €1.2 billion plan that will take us up to 2020.

Updated: October 2017

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