Tunisia denies entry to five members of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs (AFET) committee, who were due to start an official mission to the country on Thursday.
TUNIS — Tunisia denied entry to a group of MEPs from the European parliament planning an official visit to the North African country, due to get under way Thursday.
The group of MEPs from the Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, led by Germany’s Michael Gahler, were blocked from entering Tunisia on Wednesday evening.
“This delegation will not be allowed to enter national territory,” the Tunisian government wrote in a letter seen by Carthage Magazine addressed to the EU’s embassy in Tunis.
The move comes after the European Commission signed a controversial agreement with Tunisia in July aimed at lowering migration to Europe. In her State of the European Union address on Wednesday, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen praised the agreement as a model for similar deals with other nations, despite escalating criticism from the European Parliament, nongovernmental organizations, and national governments, including Germany.
The parliamentary delegation condemned the actions of the Tunisian government and demanded an explanation. “This conduct is unprecedented since the democratic revolution in 2011,” the MEPs stated in a statement.
Tunisian authorities provided no explanation for the decision; however, two Parliament officials claimed the government was offended by a July press conference in which MEPs criticized the country’s democratic backsliding.
The refusal to admit the MEPs is likely to fuel additional criticism of the Commission’s migration deal, which provides funding to Tunisia in exchange for its assistance in blocking boats transporting an increasing number of migrants to Europe. Since the agreement was signed in July, critics have noted that the number of migrants arriving in Italy from Tunisia has skyrocketed.
Pedro Marques, vice president of the center-left Socialists and Democrats, called Tunisia’s decision to deny entrance to the group “outrageous” and urged von der Leyen to scrap the migration agreement. “Funding an authoritarian regime that does not respect human rights and denies democratic dialogue between institutions in order to externalize migration management is a big political error,” he said in a statement to POLITICO.
Sophie in ‘t Veld, a Dutch center-left MEP, stated that the decision by the Tunisian government was “in no way surprising.”
Prior to the group’s planned visit, the delegation stated that it had requested to meet with Tunisian government officials, but an official agenda from Wednesday indicated only meetings with civil society, NGOs, and opposition figures.
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