Tunisia has banned a delegation from the European Parliament from entering its territory, provoking strong reactions from MEPs, some of whom have called for the suspension of the migration agreement concluded between the EU and Tunis.
Signed with great fanfare in July in Tunis, this partnership is notably supposed to reduce the number of migrants leaving the Tunisian coast in exchange for European aid of several hundred million euros.
The delegation made up of five MEPs, including three French, was to go to Tunis on Thursday “to better understand the current political situation” and take stock of this agreement.
Led by the German Michael Gahler (EPP, Christian Democrat), she was to meet members of civil society, trade unionists and representatives of the Tunisian opposition.
In a letter addressed to the EU delegation in Tunis, which our source was able to consult, the Tunisian authorities limit themselves to indicating that these deputies of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament will “not be authorized to enter the national territory” .
“This attitude is unprecedented since the democratic revolution of 2011 ,” reacted the latter, demanding a “detailed explanation” in Tunis. The Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament immediately called for the “immediate” suspension of this “migratory partnership” .
A Commission spokesperson, questioned about the impact of the Tunisian decision, expressed her “surprise” on Thursday , but judged that the continuation of the dialogue was “even more important in the face of the unprecedented challenges we are encountering” .
“It’s both surprising and exceptional ,” reacted French MEP Mounir Satouri (Greens), member of this delegation, interviewed by journalist.
“I expect from European leaders a firm response and frank support for our institution ,” said another French MEP, Emmanuel Maurel (left), also a member of this delegation.
During her State of the Union speech on Wednesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen cited this partnership as an example, which was however criticized by some MEPs.
“It’s a model that makes us dependent on autocratic systems which can then blackmail us ,” lamented French MEP Raphaël Glucksmann (Socialists and Democrats group).
“We have already had experience with Turkey. With these agreements we are putting ourselves in the hands of the States, and we are opening the way to blackmail. This is not the right solution,” declared French elected official Valérie Hayer ( Renew Europe, centrists and liberals).
The Commission defended this agreement this week, arguing that it had allowed an increase in boat interceptions and rescues.
But he is criticized on the one hand by the left and the Greens, who denounce the authoritarianism of President Kais Saied and the abuses suffered by sub-Saharan migrants in Tunisia. On the right and the far right, however, MEPs consider its implementation insufficient to reduce the number of migrant arrivals in Europe.
Tunisia is, along with Libya , the main departure point for thousands of migrants crossing the central Mediterranean towards Europe, and arriving in Italy.
Ms von der Leyen went to Tunis on the occasion of the signing of this agreement, accompanied by the heads of government of Italy Giorgia Meloni and the Dutch Mark Rutte .
After the 2015 migration crisis , EU countries concluded an agreement with Ankara aimed at curbing the arrival of migrants to Europe, in return for a heavy financial compensation – part of the 6 billion euros then promised must still be provided.