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Head of European diplomacy meets the press

Published the:  14/02/2011

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February 14, 2011 - TAP - Mrs. Catherine Margaret Ashton, first deputy-chairperson of the European Commission and High Representative of the European Union (EU), held, on Monday February 14, 2011 afternoon in Tunis, a news conference before her departure.
Mrs. Ashton said that the EU "supports forcefully" Tunisia's process of democratic transition, adding that all Tunisian political players, as well as members of civil society, ought to carry on working together in order to "make the organization of free and democratic elections easier".
"Our support to Tunisia will materialize on the ground with an aid package of 258 million Euros, to be mobilized from now on to 2013. Resources of about 17 million Euros will be released shortly," she specified.
The EU High Representative said she had had "frank and open discussions" with the European Investment Bank (EIB) officials, which produced the mobilization of one billion Euros, an amount that would serve to boost the small and medium enterprises and infrastructure projects in Tunisia.
She pointed out that the EU is planning to assist the interim government in organizing a conference on Tunisia next March.
Regarding Tunisia's access to the "advanced status," Mrs. Ashton said that discussions will start with the interim government and will be carried on with "the new government" that would emerge from the next elections, the one which will have "to ratify the document".
On illegal migration, the EU's High Representative pointed out that the EU is in permanent contact with officials in Tunisia and Italy, and what is most important in this situation "is the fact that things are being done in accordance with the best practices, in order to guarantee security of persons, as well as Italy's".
Mrs. Ashton conferred, during her one-day visit in Tunisia, with Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, Planning and International Co-operation Minister Nouri Jouini and Regional Development Minister Ahmed Néjib Chebbi, as well as with representatives of political parties, human rights activists and several civil society's players.