The Relations between Tunisia and the European Union
The European Union is a strategic partner for Tunisia, given the density and richness of political, economic, social and cultural ties between Tunisia and this entity and its member countries.
The Relations between Tunisia and the EU are part of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP), which was launched in 2004 with the aim of supporting and promoting stability, security and prosperity in the southern and eastern Mediterranean. The European Neighborhood Policy, which covers 16 countries, is based on a shared commitment to the universal values of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights.
Tunisia was the first South Mediterranean country to sign a Euro-Mediterranean Agreement establishing an association with the European Communities and their Member States on 17 July 1995 (Association Agreement), which entered into force on 01 March 1998. This Association agreement aims to provide an appropriate framework for political dialogue between the two parties, and to establish a free trade area between the two sides.
Henceforth, the relations between Tunisia and the European Union have been marked by dynamism and continuous evolution, particularly through the convening of the various structures and mechanisms of bilateral dialogue and consultation provided by the Association Agreement and the Neighborhood Action Plans, the most important of which are the Association Council, the Association Committee and various sectoral subcommittees (Human Rights, Social Affairs and Migration, Justice and Security, Industry, Trade and services, Customs, agriculture and fishing, research and innovation, etc.).
Moreover, the relations between the two sides witnessed an important leap in the wake of the Tunisian revolution of January 2011, shown especially by the unprecedented momentum of exchange of high-level visits and the establishment of a "Privileged partnership" between the two parties in November 2012. This reinforced partnership resulted in the adoption of a multi- sectoral Action plan which identified priority cooperation areas for 2013-2017 (Deep & comprehensive free trade agreement-DCFTA, Partnership for Mobility, Open Sky agreement, High-level Political Dialogue on Security and Counterterrorism, Association of Tunisia to the European Framework Programs as “Horizon 2020” and “Creative Europe”).
Within the framework of this privileged partnership, cooperation and negotiations between Tunisia and the European Union have been launched in a number of areas, including:
- • Negotiations on a draft agreement on air transport (Open Sky): Negotiations between Tunisia and the EU have been underway since 2013 to conclude an agreement aiming at liberalizing air transport services between Tunisia and the European Union and achieving legislative rapprochement with European standards in the field of safety and security of civil aviation and air traffic management, and also to support cooperation in the field of air navigation in order to establishing a common airspace. Following a series of official negotiations and technical meetings, the final version of the text of the agreement was agreed upon in December 2017 and it will be signed in a near future.
- • The establishment of a high-level political dialogue between Tunisia and the European Union: a high-level political dialogue on security and counter-terrorism was initiated in September 2015 and so far has led to an agreement on a number of cooperation projects in support of the National Counter-Terrorism Strategy adopted in November 2016.
- • Negotiations on Partnership for Mobility were launched in October 2016 consisting in negotiating of two parallel agreements on visa facilitation and on re-admission respectively. To date, two rounds of official negotiations have been held (October 2016 in Tunis and November 2017 in Brussels). The third session of the negotiations will be held in April 2018 in Tunis.
- • On the commercial level, negotiations on a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement (DCFTA) were launched in October 2015. This agreement aims, in particular, at completing and expanding the 1995 Association Agreement to include additional sectors in the free trade zone for industrial products such as services, investment and investment protection, agricultural products and fishing, public tenders, competition policy, technical barriers to trade). Following the first round of the negotiations (Tunisia, April 2016), a joint plan was adopted in December 2017 for negotiations’ process and technical meetings related to the sectors covered by this track.
- • On the financial level, the volume of grants allocated by the European Union to Tunisia has gradually increased. In fact, the European side committed to grant Tunisia from 2017 until the end of the implementation of the five-year development plan in 2020, an annual grant of 300 million Euros. In addition, Tunisia also received two loans under the macro-financial assistance amounted to 300 million Euros the first and 500 million Euros the second.