Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier held talks with his new Tunisian counterpart Khemais Jinaou in Berlin on Tuesday (19 January). Their meeting focused on further enhancing bilateral relations, efforts to fight terrorism, the situation in Libya and migration.
Just a few days after being sworn in, Foreign Minister Jinaou of Tunisia travelled to Berlin. This is a further testament to the excellence of German-Tunisian relations, as Steinmeier and Jinaou both agreed. Steinmeier stressed that the new Tunisia had chosen a “courageous but difficult” road of democratic transition five years ago, and its progress remained exemplary for the entire region. He reaffirmed Germany’s steadfast commitment to Tunisia as it moves to embrace democracy.
Border security assistance
One practical aspect of this involves supporting the southern Mediterranean country in the fight against extremism and terrorism. Several vicious attacks occurred in Tunisia in 2015. Steinmeier reiterated his conviction that terrorism respects neither religion nor borders, calling it “a threat to us all”. The German Government is therefore supplying technical equipment and training for the Tunisian border security forces. Steinmeier gave assurances that Germany will continue to make available the necessary funds for this in the coming years.
Stepping up cooperation on education and training
Another aspect is securing the economic basis for Tunisia’s transformation. The country must give its extremely young population hope for the future by making progress on development. In addition to the support it provides under European Union auspices, Germany also supports training and education for young Tunisian men and women, as was particularly highlighted during the last two visits by the German Foreign Minister to the country. Increasing cooperation in tertiary education was important, Steinmeier stressed, noting that since both sides have already taken the decisions needed to establish a German-Tunisian University, attention must now be turned to the operational requirements. Tunisia also receives assistance from Germany in the field of technical education. Foreign Minister Steinmeier announced that a group of German experts would soon visit Tunisia in this connection.
Pragmatic action needed as regards repatriation
As regards migration, the two Foreign Ministers emphasised their common interest in getting the scourge of human smuggling under control. Steinmeier and Jinaou spoke specifically about the repatriation of Tunisian refugees who have no chance of being granted asylum in Germany. Steinmeier told the press that the Tunisian Foreign Minister had acknowledged his country’s obligation under international law to take back its own nationals. The Tunisian side had furthermore signalled its willingness to consider “joint pragmatic action” in the field of returns. A German delegation from the Federal Foreign Office will soon travel to Tunis for talks on this subject.
Libya: A further step on a long road
With regard to Libya, with whom Tunisia shares a very long border, Steinmeier welcomed the fact that agreement had been reached on a proposed cabinet for the new government of national unity. “This is a further step on a long road. Now we must hope – and we are working with all the tools at our disposal to achieve this – that this cabinet list will also be approved by the parliament.” Should approval be given, the conditions would then be in place to allow a government of national unity, actually on Libyan soil, to take the reins of power.