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France voices support to Tunisia's democratic transition

Published the:  22/02/2011

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February 22, 2011 - TAP - Mrs. Christine Lagarde, French Economy, Finance and Industry Minister, and Mr. Laurent Wauquiez, Minister for European Affairs, renewed, on Tuesday February 22, 2011 in Tunis, France's support to the democratic transition in Tunisia.
The two French Ministers, who met with Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, talked about a "Marshall Plan" for Tunisia, describing as "impressive" what the Tunisians have been able to accomplish for their country.
The French senior officials' visit is aimed to review ways to strengthen Tunisian-French economic partnership and to express France's appreciation of the Tunisian people "for this revolution which is both a pioneering and deeply moral one; and it set the country on this path of transition," Mrs. Lagarde said.
She added that "we must admit, with great admiration, the deep change that took place; and we also wished to mobilize the government members to support this change."
In this regard, the French Secretary of State for Tourism will visit Tunisia next week to look at "ways for France's mobilization of all French tourism players to campaign for Tunisia," she pointed out.
The aim of this campaign, the French Minister elaborated, is to make sure that French tourists, and many others, could return to Tunisia for their holidays and have total confidence in the country.
Mr. Pierre Lellouche, Secretary of State for External Trade, will support French companies in Tunisia, starting from next month, to step up exchanges, keep up investments and highlight the economic confidence placed by France in Tunisia.
Mrs. Lagarde said France took the initiative at the end of its Presidency of the G 20-Finances, held in Paris, to commit the international community, in a message of support and friendship and also of economic and financial mobilization alongside international authorities and regional development banks, to support the Tunisian people in their democratic movement.
"The Tunisian people have taught the whole world a lesson," Minister for European Affairs Laurent Wauquiez told representatives of Tunisian and foreign media.
"You have demonstrated that the unthinkable may come true thanks to the Tunisian people's mobilization; and what you have been able to do inspires respect," he said, adding "there's no point about coming after the battle to give lessons or to explain what would be good or bad for Tunisia."
The two French ministers' visit to Tunisia is essentially aimed to listen to the Tunisian counterparts and become acquainted with the interim government's expectations to "shift from comments to action."
"France seeks to engage firmly on the side of Tunisia so that Europe makes of Tunisia its priority," he announced, adding that to achieve this target "France will strive to be Tunisia's best champion in Brussels."
Concretely, France will "militate" to make sure that Tunisia be granted the advanced status before the end of the present year, not a classical or standard status of the European Union but a "privileged and tailored" one, Mr. Wauquiez said.
The advanced status will provide a huge opportunity for Tunisia to improve its economic integration into the European sphere and ease access of Tunisian small- and medium-sized enterprises in European markets, he said.
France will also strive to develop sectoral co-operation with Tunisia in such areas as biotechnology and vocational training.
Regarding tourism, the French minister said there is room for making Tunisia better known in all Europe. "The will of France, in this regard, is to finance a European program to promote the Tunisia destination to attract tourists from all over Europe to Tunisia and publicize this destination in Northern Europe.
Regarding regional programs, France wishes to be pragmatic, Mr. Wauquiez said, reviewing the intents to achieve projects in the areas of solar farms, create networks to help SMEs and set up Mediterranean depollution and research programs.
For the last sector, he announced plans to create a Euro-Mediterranean research centre in Tunis.