The economic difficulties and the Libyan crisis are among the most important topics of the talks
Tunisian President Kais Saied has not departed from the unwritten protocol and political rule that Paris is the first foreign station (outside the Maghreb and Arab areas) for Tunisian presidents due to the “special” relationship between Tunisia and France.
However, this visit, delayed by the coronavirus, takes place under difficult circumstances for both sides. On the one hand, Tunisia is struggling internally with economic, social, political and financial problems, and the clashes in the city of Tataouine are the most visible of these. Externally, the Libyan crisis weighs heavily on Tunisia, which has 500 km of borders with Libya and has hosted tens of thousands of Libyans since 2011. Moreover, according to European sources in Paris, the emergence of a kind of “conflict of forces” in the field of foreign policy between the Carthaginian Palace and the Presidency of the Sejm on the Libyan issue gave the impression of being “copied” despite the text of the constitution giving foreign and defense policy to the President of the Republic of Poland. . On the other hand, France suffers from the consequences of Covid 19, the consequences of disrupting the economic cycle, resulting economic losses, increasing debts, suspension of companies, rising unemployment … In addition, Paris may have lost its cards in Libya after the increase in the military presence of Turkey and Russia and the ambiguity of the situation . The US government and the growing tension between it and Ankara. Consequently, the Libyan file is expected to be the main dish between Emmanuel Macron and Qais Saeed. What gives the meeting additional significance is the cooperation of Paris and Tunisia in the UN Security Council and the role that the latter can play in controlling the ongoing war and facilitating dialogue.
Saeed’s visit, postponed due to the outbreak of the pandemic, is the first foreign state visit to France since the stone was thrown in mid-March and is officially invited by the first. The Tunisian Presidency preceded the visit, describing it as a “business and friendship visit”. However, its moment has many meanings in light of what happened in the Tunisian parliament two weeks ago with a motion for a resolution calling on France to apologize for the “crimes” it committed during the colonial period in Tunisia and to demand compensation for Tunisia and the Tunisian state . Although the bill did not pass through parliament and only received 77 votes, and 107 required approval, the discussions and arguments that took place revealed deep divisions in relations with the former colonial state. There is no doubt that both presidents will take the opportunity to emphasize the friendship between their two countries.
Despite the short visit, her program was intense as it was an extensive meeting of both sides followed by a closed meeting, an official dinner at the Elysée Palace and a press interview. Said also met with the Tunisian community in France and is expected to pay a visit to the Arab World Institute before returning to his country at the end of the 24-hour visit.
French sources said Paris was “eager” to stabilize Tunisia and protect it from the aftermath of the Libyan War, not only against it, but also throughout the North African region and the Sahel countries. Earlier, Paris had warned against Turkey’s expansion towards the Maghreb countries and saw it as a “strategic threat” to French and European interests. There are also concerns that Libya will duplicate the “Syrian model” of dividing spheres of influence between Turkey and Russia. And there is “unity of position” between Paris and Tunisia today, focusing on a ceasefire, the exodus of foreign powers and the search for a political solution that embraces everyone. Undoubtedly, President Macron wanted to hear from his Tunisian visitor about the “details” of his country’s position, its interpretation of this crisis and its course, and the confirmation of foreign policy.
In terms of the economy, Tunisia expects Paris to stand by its side in the suffocating crisis it is going through and fears that unemployment will hit a record high of 20%. However, what may be limiting the volume of French aid is the fact that Paris, which is Tunisia’s first economic partner, is suffering from unprecedented debt build-up and is counting, like many EU members such as Italy and Spain, on loans from the single debt project. President Macron has estimated the “cost” of the coronavirus at 500 billion euros. However, France, given its special relations, remains the “main gate” for Tunisia to the European Union.