Title: Tunisia Considers Returning €60 Million in EU Funds amidst Controversy
In a recent development, Tunisia has the option to return the €60 million in EU funds that were transferred to them earlier this week, according to Olivér Várhelyi, the European Commissioner for enlargement and neighbourhood. The move comes after Tunisian President Kais Saied publicly rejected the European Union’s financial offer, deeming it “derisory” and in violation of the July-signed memorandum of understanding.
The European Commission has clarified that a first installment of €127 million included the €60 million already paid to the Tunisian treasury. Additionally, the Commission announced that contracts of €13 million and €8 million had been sealed with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) respectively, to aid in facilitating the voluntary returns of migrants.
In response to Tunisia’s refusal, Commissioner Várhelyi openly invited the country to return the €60 million if it was not needed. He emphasized the importance of mutual respect within the partnership between the European Union and Tunisia.
However, the EU-Tunisia memorandum has faced criticism from various quarters. The European Parliament and humanitarian organizations have expressed concerns over alleged abuses inflicted upon sub-Saharan migrants by Tunisian authorities. Furthermore, President Saied’s racist views towards black Africans and his controversial actions, like denying entry to Members of the European Parliament, have drawn severe criticism.
European Council President Charles Michel also criticized the Commission’s negotiation process regarding the agreement, eliciting a response from the Commission. The Commission underscored the importance of member states’ involvement in the negotiation process and reiterated that they are free to engage in non-binding agreements, such as the memorandum with Tunisia.
As debates persist and tensions escalate, it remains to be seen whether Tunisia will opt to return the €60 million or find a resolution with the European Union. The financial dispute serves as a stark reminder of the complexities inherent in international partnerships, and the need for cooperation and respect between nations to overcome such challenges.