As collaboration resumes to combat illegal immigration, Italy asks Tunisia to implement immediate and effective coastal surveillance and to collaborate on identifying and taking back illegal migrants. Italy is ready to support Tunisia’s democratic transition process. Development Cooperation initiatives.
Foreign Minister Franco Frattini and Interior Minister Roberto Maroni are in Tunis for meetings at the institutional level. The aim is to reinstate common rules on immigration and halt the boatloads of Tunisians setting sail for Lampedusa (about 15,000 migrants in the first 3 months of the year). Frattini and Maroni will meet the Tunisian Premier, Beji Caid Essebsi, and some of his ministers.
On migration issues, bilateral relations between Italy and Tunisia envisage collaboration on legal migration, most notably on initiatives to help migrants find a place in the Italian labour market and activities to prevent and combat illegal immigration.
The sharp rise in the numbers of illegal immigrants landing in Italy after the political-institutional crisis that recently hit the country has brought the key issue of controlling migratory flows into even sharper focus. This explains, in light of developments in the country, the need for Italy to resume full collaboration with Tunisia on migration issues. We have asked for a strong and unequivocal commitment by the Tunisians on combating illegal emigration, with all its security implications. In this context, a renewed commitment is needed on the Tunisian side in order to immediately restore adequate levels of coastal surveillance and at the same time resume full collaboration on identifying and re-admitting illegal migrants.
Italy is ready to give its full support to Tunisia in terms of emergency assistance, the planning of development initiatives for the country’s most depressed regions, and the involvement of the Italian private sector. We have urged the EU, since the outset of the crisis, to relaunch collaboration with Tunisia on combating illegal immigration. The extraordinary European Council of 11 March 2011 adopted this position and the Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmstrom, will soon be visiting Tunisia to define a number of joint initiatives with the Tunisians. The EU and Tunisia are not bound by any re-admission agreement; nor were any negotiations on the issue opened in the past, given the country’s interest in favouring the bilateral dimension in this sector.
The EU has begun a broad reflection on how best to provide adequate support for the democratic transition process in Tunisia in both the short and the longer term. This is part of a more general review of the Union’s strategy vis-à-vis the region. One initial response took the form of increased financial assistance for Tunis, with the addition of 17 million euros to the funding already allocated by the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI). The additional funds are intended to be used to prepare the elections for the constituent assembly (scheduled for July 2011), create an observers’ mission for the elections, and implement programmes for civil society.
In accepting Italy’s request the European Council of 11 March undertook to resume talks to strengthen EU-Tunisia relations by drawing up an Action Plan for an Advanced Statute. These talks will be an important instrument in encouraging the Government to make progress and will provide concrete proof of Europe’s interest in the country.