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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations

The partnership between Tunisia and the European Union (EU) is rooted in the mutual interest of enhancing a prosperous and stable Tunisian democracy.  The EU-Tunisia relations formally dates back to 1976 and its legal basis is the Association Agreement signed in 1995. The EU and Tunisia established a Privileged Partnership in 2012, which translated into the 2013-2017 Action Plan to increase the links between the EU and Tunisia. Both partners also adopted a Mobility Partnership in 2014. The EU's commitment to support Tunisia achieve its ambitions was further underlined in 2016 with the Joint Communication "Strengthening EU support for Tunisia". In the context of the revised European Neighbourhood Policy and the EU's Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy, the EU-Tunisia Strategic Priorities were endorsed at the EU-Tunisia Association Council in July 2018 and adopted in November 2018 by the Council, as the main guiding lines for the EU-Tunisia privileged partnership in 2018-2020.

The 2011 Revolution marked a turning point in the EU-Tunisia partnership. Ever since, the EU has been Tunisia's key partner in support of its transition towards a modern democracy. Through all its instruments, the EU is supporting democratic and socioeconomic reforms, accompanying the electoral processes, promoting human rights, strengthening civil society actors, enhancing economic and trade integration, and improving security. Since 2011, EU assistance to Tunisia has amounted to almost €3 billion (over €2 billion in grants and €800 million in macro-financial assistance).

Bilateral cooperation

The European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) was the key EU financial instrument for bilateral cooperation with Tunisia for the period 2014-2020. The new Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) will frame the EU’s cooperation for the period 2021-2027. The instrument’s approach includes grant funding as well as blending grants with loans from European and International Financing Institutions.

Under ENI, bilateral assistance followed multiannual programming through the Single Support Framework, which defined the areas of focus for EU assistance, in line with the Strategic Priorities.

From 2011 on, EU assistance to Tunisia increased substantially. Tunisia has been the number one beneficiary of the incentive-based mechanism every year since 2011 following progress in the respect of human rights and the rule of law, and was awarded additional funding worth €90 million in 2020.

For the period 2014-2020, the EU's bilateral assistance to Tunisia under the ENI amounted to €1.6 billion and focused on the three following priority sectors:

  • Promoting good governance and the rule of law;
  • Investing in the future: stimulating a sustainable economic growth generating employment;
  • Reinforcing social cohesion between generations and regions.

Since 2011, the EU has been giving even greater importance to civil society in the Southern Neighbourhood. In Tunisia, assistance to NGOs was increased and regular consultation fora were established to promote a more structured dialogue between the EU and civil society organisations. Support to civil society has become a key feature of EU cooperation to the country and trilateral consultations (civil society, EU, Government) take place ahead of subcommittee meetings under the EU-Tunisia Association Agreement.

Under the EU External Investment Plan and the blending mechanism of the Neighbourhood Investment Platform, Tunisia has benefited from €2.3 billion in blending grants in concessional loans from European Financial Institutions combined with public and private sector financing since 2014. Investments supported projects in the sectors of education, transport, energy and urban development. EU grants increased the concessional nature of loans from European Financial Institutions and absorbed political and economic risks. Under the new NDICI instrument, an increased accent on blending EU grants with loans from European and International Financing Institutions will allow partner counties to unlock substantial level of concessional funding for investments. The new system of guarantees provided for under the NDICI will give access to additional funds from the crowding-in of both public and private investors.

On 9 February 2021, the European Commission adopted a Joint Communication on the renewed partnership with the Southern Neighbourhood, establishing a new Agenda for the Mediterranean to relaunch and reinforce the EU’s partnership with the region. It will guide EU policy and programming towards the country for the coming years. The Joint Communication is accompanied by an Economic and Investment Plan for the Southern Neighbours to ensure amongst others that the quality of life for people in the region improves and the economic recovery, including following the COVID-19 pandemic, leaves no one behind. The Plan includes 12 preliminary flagship initiatives to strengthen resilience, build prosperity and increase trade and investment to support competitiveness and inclusive growth. Relevant flagships for Tunisia will include (1) support to the conclusion of a Comprehensive Aviation Agreement with the EU, (2) support to the deployment of social protection systems improving the resilience of vulnerable populations, (3) support to the digitalisation of the economy, (4) support to the rollout of the national water strategy, securing availability and access to water.

Regional cooperation

In addition to bilateral cooperation, Tunisia benefited from regional and Neighbourhood-wide cooperation programmes under the ENI in the sectors of the economy and the business environment; education, training and research; culture and media; migration and asylum; justice, freedom and security; environment, climate change and energy.

Under the EU twinning tool, the Tunisian public administration is partnered with European administrations for mutual learning and capacity building through sharing of EU best practices. Tunisia benefited from 20 twinning projects in 2014-2020 in the sectors of Agriculture and Fisheries, Environment, Finance, Internal market and economy, Health and consumer protection,  Justice and home affairs, Social affairs and Employment, Statistics, Telecommunications and Transports. Tunisia also benefited from TAIEX (Technical Assistance and Information Exchange instrument) that supports public administration reforms with 119 events in 2015-2020.

Support in the field of migration under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF Africa)

Tunisia benefits from bilateral and regional funding under the North of Africa window of the EUTF Africa, currently amounting to €89 million, which supports efforts in enhancing migration management and border management, addressing the roots causes of irregular migration and sustaining local communities hosting refugees.

Other financing instruments

Tunisia participates to Erasmus+ which supports the modernisation of the higher education sector and promotes mobility and co-operation with EU higher education institutions. 5,180 Tunisian students, professors and university staff travelled to Europe and 2,622 European counterparts travelled to Egypt between 2015 and 2020.

Tunisia also benefits from additional thematic programmes and instruments:

  • European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights: €10 million in 2014-2020
  • Since 1 January 2016, Tunisia has become the first Arab country fully associated to the EU research programme Horizon 2020, which provides new opportunities to Tunisian scholars and researchers.
  • On 11 May 2017, Tunisia signed the association to the Creative Europe programme, which enables Tunisian cultural and audio-visual operators to participate fully in the Culture sub-programme and partially in the MEDIA sub-programme (participation limited to training, film festivals, film education, and market access activities).

Factsheets and Factographs available to download:

Selected projects

Latest News

News article |

Visiting Brussels on 4 June 2021, His Excellency Mr Kais Saied, the President of the Republic of Tunisia, held talks with His Excellency Mr Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, Her Excellency Ms Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission

Key documents

For specific information (programme level), see below