“A democracy is vigorous and vibrant only if all of its citizens, men and women, of all religious faiths or social groups, can identify with and participate in the res pubblica”. These were the words of the President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, in his address to the Tunisian Constituent Assembly, which has been working since October 2011 to define its new post-revolution architecture.
The Head of State, the first President of a European Union country to be given the opportunity to speak in the Assembly, underscored that “it is vitally important to ensure that the Parliament is as broadly representative as possible. Here, the role of the opposition enables all of the nation’s voices to contribute to legislative decisions”. The President’s visit to the Assembly took place at the close of his two-day visit to Tunisia, accompanied by Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi.
An example for the “Arab Spring” countries
At the end of his talks with the Tunisian heads of state and government Napolitano pointed out that Tunisia is “an example” for the countries of the Arab revolution. It must now give concrete form to its democratic institutions and demonstrate their “solidity and stability”. For this reason, Italy has a need and a duty to help the young Tunisian democracy, which has embarked on an interesting process of constitution building. “The Tunisians expect a great deal from Italy. Encouragement alone is not enough: we need to give them concrete help too because without such help institutional achievements could be put at risk”, said Napolitano after his meeting with President Moncef Marzouk and Premier Hamadi Jebali.
The immigration question
One of the key issues discussed during the visit was immigration, both legal and otherwise. The Head of State hoped that there would be no more “deadly voyages”, and underscored that all too many migrants embark on which they think will be a “voyage of hope”, only to see it transformed into tragedy. For this reason, President Napolitano ensured that Italy would “pay full attention to the humanitarian aspects and make every effort in the search for information on the missing”. Indeed, with Minister Terzi he met the representatives of the relatives of emigrants who went missing in 2011, after leaving Tunisia for Italy.
Tunisia is “on the right road” and President Napolitano invited the business community to continue their courageous investment in this country, which is almost on Italy’s doorstep. A country where tourism is a rich and as yet largely unexplored resource.
Agreement on a “strategic partnership”
Italy and Tunisia launched a strategic partnership through a joint declaration signed by Minister Terzi and his Tunisian colleague, Rafik Abdessalem. In the declaration, Italy confirms its commitment to help Tunisia enter into a “privileged partnership” with the European Union and to ensure that the EU provides substantial support for Tunisia’s efforts to achieve social and economic development.
The declaration also refers to the value of the traditional friendship between the two countries, which has made a substantial contribution to strengthening euro-Mediterranean cooperation and promoting peace and prosperity in the region. A region currently swept by great political and social changes. Italy and Tunisia both expressed their intention to work to ensure that the diversified and mutually advantageous Italian-Tunisian partnership becomes a benchmark in strengthening and intensifying cooperation and dialogue between the peoples of the two shores of the Mediterranean.
A policy for “solidarity and development”
The declaration also states that the two countries are convinced of the need to put in place policies for “solidarity and development” that focus especially on the more disadvantaged regions of Tunisia. These policies, a key element of their strengthened partnership, will aim at fostering shared social and economic progress. Italy and Tunisia, says the declaration, are aware of the importance of adopting mechanisms for periodic consultations to consolidate bilateral collaboration and to discuss and analyse the prospect for such collaboration in the economic and social sectors.
The declaration goes on to say that Italy and Tunisia adopt measures to create an enhanced strategic partnership aimed at strengthening bilateral relations, especially as regards collaboration to foster economic and social development, and in the sectors of mobility, scientific research and culture.
As part of the accord, the two countries have decided to hold annual high level (Head of State) meetings with the participation of foreign ministers and those with responsibility for each of the sectors of bilateral collaboration. The meetings will alternate between Rome and Tunis.