Home » Migrants, Tunisia-EU agreement signed. Meloni: “Model for relations with North Africa”

Migrants, Tunisia-EU agreement signed. Meloni: “Model for relations with North Africa”

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The Italian premier flew to Tunis together with the Dutch prime minister Rutte and the president of the EU Commission von der Leyen. The text signed together with the Tunisian president Saied will be “an important step towards creating a real partnership” between Brussels and Tunis, Meloni said. The Memorandum, which could mark a turning point in European migration policies, also launches strong energy cooperation and accelerates cultural exchanges between Tunisians and Europeans. Meanwhile, the landings in Lampedusa continue

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After months of negotiations, Tunisia and the European Union signed the Memorandum of Understanding centered on the five pillars agreed last June: migration and the fight against migrant smuggling, EU macro-financial assistance, strengthening of economic ties, cooperation on energy green and promotion of cultural exchanges between Tunisians and Europeans. The so-called ‘Team Europe’ flew to Tunis to represent Brussels: Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who inaugurated the Rome-Pompeii Frecciarossa in the morning, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. After signing the agreement, they then reunited with Tunisian President Kais Saied for a private meeting in the Council Chamber of the presidential palace in Carthage. “An important step was taken today, it is a starting point which will have to be followed by various agreements to implement the objectives we have set ourselves,” Meloni said in the joint press conference with the other leaders. For the prime minister, the signing of the agreement will be a “model for Europe’s relations with the other North African countries” and a starting point for a “different” partnership from the one pursued so far. “The Memorandum of Understanding that we signed establishes the closeness between peoples,” said Saied instead. The agreement will now have to be approved by the member states, as Rutte specified, saying he is “confident that there will be broad support” (MIGRANTS, THE SPECIAL).

The Memorandum of Understanding and the fight against migrant traffickers

The Memorandum of Understanding could mark a turning point in European migration policies. Brussels is providing 105 million euros – part of the external dimension fund package – to support Saied in the departure block. In the past few hours, the Tunisian president has announced an all-out fight against traffickers. “There are many cases of migration and this is not its usual form, but a real deportation. All this is managed by criminal networks that practice human trafficking and organ trafficking. These networks have a lucrative purpose, but they also aim at the very existence of countries”, he underlined. The fight against migrant traffickers – “who exploit human lives according to an unconscious business model” – will be at the heart of cooperation between Brussels and Tunis, – explained von der Leyen. Who specified how the EU will increase “coordination in Sar operations and border control and repatriation in full compliance with international law”. At the same time the Memorandum includes the facilitation of regular migration from Tunisia to European countries.

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Saied at the conference on migrants in Rome

Meloni recalled that Rome is preparing to host the international conference on migration on Sunday 23 July. It will be one of the first test benches to test the partnership formalized with the agreement signed today: the summit “will have President Saied among the protagonists”, said the premier, underlining that “various Mediterranean heads of state and government will participate”. Saied thanked the EU leaders – “and in particular Prime Minister Meloni” – for having responded “immediately to the Tunisian initiative to organize” the summit on migration with the countries concerned.

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Migrants: Meloni, Von der Leyen and Rutte on Sunday in Tunis

Doubts about respect for human rights

The great puzzle of the strategy remains respect for the human rights of migrants. Following the clashes last July 3 in Sfax, hundreds of sub-Saharan people were driven out of the city and, according to Human Rights Watch, deported “to inhospitable areas near Libya and in western Algeria, without food, water and shelter at over 40 degrees”. Tunisian NGOs, in view of the agreement with the EU, have returned to office asking the government for emergency accommodation and adequate assistance for migrants who – they accused – are living in “a catastrophic situation”. But the doubts about respect for human rights in Tunisia, also relaunched by a group of MEPs at the last EP Plenary, shouldn’t stop the agreement.

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Immigration, Meloni with the EU in Tunis: “Satisfied with the document”

Financial assistance and the standoff with the IMF

Brussels undertakes to pay, immediately, 150 million euros in support of the North African government. Instead, the Tunisian president will have to wait to receive the tranche of funding for another 900 million euros from the EU. The Commission will not move until the stalemate between the IMF and Saied is resolved, with the former asking for adequate reforms before paying the 1.9 billion loan and the latter having raised a trench against the Fund’s “dictates” Monetary. Necessary, said Saied, “to find ways to collaborate outside the framework of the IMF that was established after the Second World War.” The Tunisian president spoke of a “regime that divides the world into two halves – one destination for the rich and one for the poor”.

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Trade, energy, culture

The text of the Memorandum text also aims to renew economic relations between the EU and Tunisia, encouraging investments by large, medium and small companies in Tunisia. The goal is to significantly increase trade between the EU and the North African country. Then there is the energy chapter. On the one hand, the EU’s need to diversify supplies as a result of the war in Ukraine, on the other, the opportunity for Tunisia to give lifeblood, with European investments, to the development of renewables. Rome, with the Elmed electricity interconnection project, is a candidate to be the Tunisian energy hub for Europe. And again, another pillar of the Memorandum is the “People to People” one, which provides for cultural exchanges, application of the Erasmus + program, more cooperation in research and education. The EU will also use the Talent Partnership programme, thus opening up “new study and work opportunities for young Tunisians”.

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Migrants, missed departure and the role of traffickers

Landings continue in Lampedusa

Meanwhile, the landings in Lampedusa continue. Yesterday almost a thousand people arrived and there are currently over 2,300 guests at the contrada Imbriacola hotspot. About 10,000 migrants landed on Italian coasts in the first half of July, more than 75,000 since the beginning of the year.

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Migrants, landings and transfers to Lampedusa: 2,082 in hotspots

“We still don’t have all the information about what happened, but it seems to be the biggest tragedy in the Mediterranean.” Thus the EU Commissioner for Internal Affairs, Ylva Johansson, spoke of the shipwreck off the coast of Pylos, in Greece, in which at least 78 migrants lost their lives. This is the number of bodies already found. But on the boat – which left Egypt empty and then stopped in the Libyan port of Tobruk to load passengers – it is estimated that there may have been up to 750 people (including many children).

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From 2014 to today, according to data from the IOM (International Organization for Migration), the deadliest migratory route in the world has been precisely the one that coincides with the waters of the Mediterranean. Here, more than 27,000 people have lost their lives – or have disappeared, against 12,647 in Africa, 7,846 in the Americas, 5,528 in Asia, 2,135 in Western Asia and 1,013 in continental Europe

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But even within the Mediterranean there are differences. In fact, there is no place more risky than the central Mediterranean, i.e. the one found under the Italian coasts: of the 27,000 deaths that have been counted in the last 10 years, 20,804,000 were directed towards our country. Just over 3,000 migrants traveled to Spain, 2,725 to Greece and Cyprus

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