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The EU is committed to developing a close relationship with Tunisia and to supporting Tunisia’s economic and political reforms.
Tunisia was the first Mediterranean country to sign an Association Agreement with the EU in July 1995. This serves as the legal basis for our bilateral relations.
The current agenda of EU-Tunisia political cooperation is spelled out in an Action Plan covering 2013-2017.
The 2014-2016 single support framework defines financial assistance priorities under the European Neighbourhood Instrument.
Annual Action Programmes for Tunisia, funded under the European Neighbourhood Instrument on a yearly basis, provide further specification on sectors and operations to be financed.
Other funding sources include thematic programmes, focusing among others, on human rights and civil society or regional programmes funded by the ENI regional envelop.
Tunisia also benefits from funding under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for stability and addressing root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in Africa. The part of the Trust Fund that provides assistance to the North Africa region is managed by the Directorate General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations.
Since the Revolution
In the aftermath of the 2011 revolution, the EU rapidly responded to the evolving social, economic and political challenges in Tunisia and almost doubled the amount allocated to the country for the period 2011-2013 (from €240 million to €445 million). As a further response, EU-Tunisia cooperation was thoroughly reviewed and programmes were re-oriented to respond to newly emerging challenges, to the priorities defined by the authorities and to the demands of the wider population. It was and still is essential for the EU to accompany the Tunisian transition process and to contribute to the reduction of socio-economic inequalities. After 2011, the role of Tunisian civil society became more prominent and several actions were funded to strengthen the capacity building of these actors and promote an open dialogue.
For the financial period 2014-2020, a first programming document called the Single Support Framework (SSF) 2014-2016 has been adopted.
Priority sectors, key objectives, results and indicative financial allocations are outlined in the document and are based on extensive consultations and coordination with Tunisian and international stakeholders.
In continuity with 2011-2013, EU assistance to Tunisia in 2014-2016 focuses on three priority sectors:
- Socio-economic reforms for inclusive growth, competitiveness and integration
- Strengthening fundamental elements of democracy
- Sustainable regional and local development
Complementary support for capacity development and civil society has also been provided outside these priority sectors.
The funding comes from the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI).
A breakdown of ENI funding
For the period 2014-2020, the indicative allocation could range between €725 and €886 million (i.e. an average of €115 million yearly). For the years 2014 and 2015, the allocation amounted to €234 million.
Moreover, Tunisia is eligible for the "more for more" incentive mechanism, the so called Umbrella funds that reward progress made in terms of reforms. Under the 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework, SPRING funds were replaced by the so-called Umbrella programme fund. In 2014, Tunisia was the first recipient of Umbrella funds with an amount of €50 million and €71.8 million in 2015.
As part of EU bilateral cooperation (Annual Action Programme 2015) funds for 2015 amounted to €186.8 million (€115 million from the bilateral allocation and €71.8 million from the Umbrella fund). The first part of the 2015 bilateral assistance (five programmes for an amount of €116.8 million) was adopted through urgent procedure in July 2015 to swiftly respond to the Bardo and Sousse terrorist attacks and subsequent significant negative impact on the Tunisian economic situation.
The five adopted programmes are as follows: support to private sector, vocational training and employment (€32 million); support to the modernisation and reform of the security sector (€23 million); decentralisation and integrated regional development (€43 million); support to the Association Agreement and the integration process (€12.8 million); and support to the cultural sector (€6 million). The second part of the 2015 Annual Action Programme was adopted in December 2015 to support the country's socio-economic reforms and its tourism sector for a total amount of €70 million.
Prior to this period…
For the 2007-2013 period, bilateral assistance committed to Tunisia totalled €775 million, under the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI)
The main focus of EU support to Tunisia after the revolution included the core sectors of good governance and democracy, economic reform and recovery as well as support to social sector and the environment.
Support to Civil Society
Since 2011, the EU has given even greater importance to civil society in the Southern Neighbourhood: subsequently assistance to NGOs was increased and regular consultation spaces were ensured to promote a more structured dialogue between the EU and civil society organisations. In Tunisia, support to civil society has become a pivotal aspect of EU cooperation in the country.
The EU Delegation is currently responsible for over 70 projects worth €58.5 million, funded by the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), the Non State Actors programme (NSA), the Civil Society Facility and ENPI/ENI instruments. The projects, implemented by local and international NGOs, range from support to women's rights, freedom of expression and promotion of democratic values, the fight against torture, domestic observation of elections, support to the development of an independent civil society and the involvement of citizens' associations in the definition of the country's reform programme to support local development. Calls for proposals are launched regularly on a variety of topics, covering the different programmes and sectors of intervention.
A specific Programme to Support Civil Society (PASC) worth €7 million is currently under implementation. This programme aims to support the capacity building of civil society organisations so that they can better contribute to the development and the democratic transition of the country. The programme facilitates dialogue and partnerships between civil society organisations and public actors, and makes recommendations for legislative reviews related to actions promoted by NGOs as well as their working environment.
The EU co-funded the creation of the Jamaity.org platform in 2014, bringing together more than 1600 Tunisian civil society organisations. The online platform provides information and geo-localisation on projects, resources, events, funding opportunities, documents and tools. This aims to be the only platform for civil society in Tunisia and should provide links to all other relevant initiatives and stakeholders.
Civil society organisations are also called to submit their contributions in the preparation of the EU-Tunisia sub-committees and to contribute to other relevant programming documents and policy papers – maintaining a close dialogue on all issues of common interest.
Tunisia is an active participant in a wide range of regional initiatives covering the Maghreb and/or the Neighbourhood South regions. Regional programmes are funded under the ENI and focus on different sectors such as 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. Furthermore, Tunisia participates in cross-border cooperation and in initiatives open to the Southern Neighbourhood countries: Erasmus+, TAIEX, SIGMA, and the Neighbourhood Investment Facility (NIF). The NIF in Tunisia primarily targets investment projects in transport infrastructure, wastewater management, financing of small business, water and energy efficiency, as well as professional training and trade and competitiveness.
Other budget lines
In addition to the bilateral and regional ENI/ENPI funds, Tunisia is eligible and benefits from funding under several thematic instruments and programmes, for instance: the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR - €1.2 million in 2015), the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP – €4 million in 2015), or the thematic programmes of the Development Cooperation Instrumentsuch as Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities in development (€0.6 million in 2015) and the geographic programmes such as the Migration and Asylum component. In 2014, Tunisia also benefitted from a European Election Observation Mission (€3 million).
Education and Mobility
During the period 2007-2013, Tunisia also benefitted from the Erasmus Mundus programme, with €10 million allocated from the ENPI instrument in 2013, which enhanced mobility and co-operation with the EU in the field of higher education, as well as the Tempus programme which supported the modernisation of higher education.
Both programmes have been integrated in the Erasmus+ programme which has been launched at the beginning of 2014 and for which Tunisia remains eligible.
Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA)
Moreover, the EU has also approved macro-financial assistance (MFA) to Tunisia for an amount of €300 million (2014) and a second MFA package of €500 million (2016). MFA-I: The first tranche of €100 million was disbursed in May 2015 and the second €100 million tranche in December 2015. MFA-II: This package was approved by EU co-legislators in July 2016 and will be disbursed in three tranches of €200 million, €150 million and €150 million.
For further information please consult the annual EU-Tunisia Cooperation Reports (2015)