Tuesday, Tunisia dismissed as “exaggerated” assumptions of an approaching economic or social collapse, as the EU’s top diplomat warned of a “very, very dangerous” situation in the country.
Monday, Josep Borrell, the chief of foreign policy for the European Union, warned that if crisis-torn Tunisia “collapses economically or socially, we will be in a position where new migrant flows will come to Europe.”
The Tunisian foreign ministry rejected his remarks as “exaggerated”, citing “both the well-established resilience of the Tunisian people throughout its history, and in view of the threat of migration to Europe from the south.”
An EU delegation was due to visit Tunisia on Tuesday to look into “the political and socio-economic situation” and discuss cooperation over irregular migration, according to an EU statement.
In the statement, the country’s challenges were attributed on its leadership in the years following the 2011 pro-democracy revolution.
Tunisia went through a decade-long economic and political crises, which resulted in a power grab by President Kais Saied in July 2021. His critics have accused him of staging a coup.
Since then, Saied has abolished the country’s post-revolution constitution, granted himself nearly unlimited power, and started a crackdown on the opposition.
The aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has worsened Tunisians’ struggles with unemployment and soaring inflation, prompting many to attempt to flee the country.
Tunis is in prolonged talks with the International Monetary Fund for a $2 billion bailout package to assist the heavily indebted government in balancing its finances.
Southern European authorities, in especially Italy’s far-right government, are concerned about illegal migration from and via Tunisia, which is located just 130 kilometers (80 miles) from the Italian island of Lampedusa.
Many Africans fleeing conflict and poverty south of the Sahara also attempt to reach Europe via Tunisia.
In February, Saied delivered an impassioned speech in which he blamed “hordes of illegal migrants from sub-Saharan Africa” for a crime widespread and said that a “criminal plot” was underway to alter the country’s demographic makeup.
In addition to the economic situation, the EU is troubled by Saied’s increasing authoritarianism and a recent crackdown that has resulted in the detention of over 20 political figures.
Borrell said, “We cannot turn a blind eye to what’s happened”.
In its statement, the Tunisian foreign ministry praised the “constructive support of several partners,” including Italy, and expressed its openness to “a responsible, respectful, and equal partnership with all of its partners.”