Tunisia and EU ink billion dollar migration deal


After months of speculation, Tunisia and the EU have finalised a deal to try and stem irregular migration from northern Africa. The negotiations culminated in a slightly awkward 4-way handshake between the leaders of Tunisia, Italy, the Netherlands, and the European Commission on Sunday.

Boat departures from Tunisia to Europe have spiked in recent months, with some estimating 3,000 folks are embarking on the journey each day.

So this deal seeks to respond with a package of five ‘pillars’:

  • 🧑‍🎓 Opening more programs for Tunisian students
  • 💰 Up to ~$1.1B in budget support for Tunisia (T&Cs apply)
  • 🚢 Activities to boost trade and investment with Tunisia, and
  • 🔋 Assistance for Tunisia’s green energy transition.

That’s four non-migration pillars, really all in Tunisia’s favour.

So what’s the 5th pillar the EU gets in return?

  • 🧑‍🤝‍🧑 More Tunisian cooperation on border control, anti-smuggling, and return operations, with ~$112M in EU funding.

Intrigue’s take: Tunis needs this injection of euros to stabilise its free-falling economy, and Brussels probably needs Tunisia’s help to manage EU borders.

But while the ink on the deal is barely dry, you can imagine the questions folks are asking around Tunisia’s human rights record, the president’s authoritarian streak, and the sheer volume of euros on offer.

The EU leader didn’t take media questions on Sunday, but we can imagine her answers: on this issue at least, it seems the ends justify the means.

Also worth noting:

  • €900M of the EU’s pledged budget support will depend on an IMF bailout which Tunisia just rejected due to the IMF’s “diktats”.
  • A UN body issued a rebuke after Tunisian President Saied’s comments about “hordes of illegal migrants” earlier this year.
  • In March, Europe’s parliament criticised Tunisia’s ongoing crackdown on civil society.
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