The EU proposals, which will be the focus of further negotiations, provide for “macro-financial assistance amounting to around €1 billion once the necessary agreements are in place”.
The President of the European Commission, von der Leyen, who is visiting Tunisia with Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, revealed a cooperation program that includes five main points, including developing the Tunisian economy, supporting trade and investment, in addition to supporting the digital sector and clean and renewable energy projects.
Ursula von der Leyen announced financial support for Tunisia amounting to 900 million euros to support and develop the economy, after reaching an agreement as soon as possible (referring to the loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund), in addition to 150 million euros to support the immediate budget.
The second point of the program relates to developing trade exchange and supporting investment through updating the agreement between Tunisia and the European Union in this field, with the aim of creating job opportunities and supporting investment, especially in the digital sector.
Supporting the digital sector
Ursula von der Leyen referred to the “Medusa” submarine cable project, which aims by 2025 to link 11 countries on both sides of the Mediterranean, with the aim of creating job opportunities. With financing amounting to 150 million euros by the European Investment Fund.
The “Medusa” network is one of the latest generations of submarine cables that follow the “Open Access” feature. The new project aims to address the challenges facing the connection of submarine cables, by establishing new paths to diversify data traffic and reduce its congestion, and to gain higher capacities by increasing the number of fiber pairs per cable while enhancing the open access feature to all European landing stations.
The network is 8,760 km long, carrying 24 pairs of fibers with a capacity of 20 terabits per second per pair.
Partnerships in the field of sustainable energy
The energy sector represents the third point of the cooperation program that Europe proposes to Tunisia, specifically renewable energy. A statement from the Tunisian presidency stated that this partnership “will contribute to achieving the green energy transition in Tunisia, reducing costs, setting an appropriate framework for exchange in the field of renewable energies, and integrating into the European Common Market.”
In this regard, Ursula von der Leyen indicated that a forum on investment in the renewable energies sector, especially green hydrogen, will be organized next fall.
International energy expert Imad Darwish says, “Tunisia, which launched a green hydrogen project in 2022 in the service of sustainable development and a carbon-free economy, could be the first source of this energy to Europe.”
Among the advantages of green hydrogen is that it is free of greenhouse gases, which makes it a completely clean energy that preserves the climate, in addition to reducing the energy deficit, raising export revenues, and creating new job opportunities, especially since production areas are mostly inland or remote areas.
As for the thorny issue of immigration, the President of the European Commission indicated the importance of cooperation in the field of combating human smuggling gangs, border management, and search and rescue, through funding of 100 million euros this year.
“Our goal is to have a comprehensive approach to immigration policy that respects human rights,” von der Leyen said.
In its fifth point, the program also includes expanding opportunities for Tunisian youth to study, work and train in European Union countries by allocating a window to Tunisia within the “Erasmus+” program, and allocating 10 million euros for this purpose.