Two financial agreements between the European Union (EU) and Tunisia, under the form of a donation, worth 157 million euros (nearly 300 million Tunisian dinars) were signed at the end of the first meeting of the joint Tunisia-European Union (EU) Task Force, held on September 28-29, in Tunis.
The first agreement provides for back-up programmes to the economic re-launch worth 100 million euros, and the second one stipulates a support programme to the public policies of water resources management for rural and agricultural development, by means of 57 million euros.
On the occasion, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton reasserted the EU's commitment to provide assistance to the Tunisians who are looking forward for swift changes, notably in the economic field.
"It is a new, open, dynamic and democratic Tunisia which is emerging," Mrs. Ashton said on Thursday, at the end of the meeting. "Tunisia has a huge potential, competent people and large opportunities," she added, pointing out that "it is essential that investments return."
In this regard, she laid emphasis on the pressing need to take the required measures to retrieve the stolen assets, presently frozen in some countries, in order to be put to good use.
"The Task Force's creation aims to better co-ordinate the European and international support so that assistance be swifter and more efficient," she specified, reckoning that the EU's financial assistance to Tunisia could reach 4 billion euros during the 2011-2013 period.
"Thanks to the Task Force's meeting, the EU has a better perception of Tunisia's challenges and needs, notably in matters of economic development, and is thus in better position to provide the necessary support to Tunisia's development efforts and democratic process," Caretaker Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi asserted, expressing wish that this first meeting would be followed by others in Tunis or Brussels.
These two new Tunisian-European agreements, he said, could but contribute to increase job opportunities, help fight against unemployment and open up new co-operation prospects between Tunisia and the European Union.
During a briefing with the media, EU Special Representative for the South Mediterranean Region Bernardino Leon announced that negotiations would start next October 6 between Tunisia and the European Union to conclude a partnership framework agreement.
The signing ceremony was preceded by a work group meeting attended by Foreign Minister Mohamed Mouldi Kefi, Finance Minister Jalloul Ayed and Planning and International Co-operation Minister Abdelhamid Triki and European MPs and representatives of international institutions.
This meeting was an occasion to stress the need to carry out internal reforms, restore stability and security in the country and establish a climate favourable to investment to better reassure foreign partners.