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EU and Tunisia work to strengthen their Privileged Partnership

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There has been continued progress in the transition towards democracy in Tunisia in the last year, but this must be accompanied by equivalent economic and social progress to ensure that it can be sustained.

Ahead of the EU-Tunisia Association Council due to be held on 17 May, the EU has today published its latest report on developments in relations with Tunisia. The report describes the key aspects of the cooperation from the beginning of 2018 to March 2019.

‘We attach particular importance to our cooperation with Tunisia, built as it is on the foundation of our common history, shared values and mutual respect. Significant progress has been made in the last year within the framework of our Privileged Partnership. We remain steadfast in our commitment to the Tunisian people, and specifically to the future of its young people, in order to help establish lasting democratic rule of law and a safe and prosperous country’ , stated Federica Mogherini, High Representative/ Vice-President for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

‘The EU has continued to deploy all its cooperation instruments to support our Tunisian partner. In 2018, this led to the adoption of a financial assistance package worth € 305 million, in the form of grants, which is the highest amount ever allocated to Tunisia under the European Neighbourhood Instrument. At the same time, working together with eight European and international financial institutions, I launched an unprecedented initiative in order to highlight the need for Tunisia to follow through on its commitments to socio-economic reforms as soon as possible, for the benefit of all Tunisians’, said Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations.

The report is structured around the EU-Tunisia strategic priorities to be achieved by 2020, with the aim of describing in as much detail as possible the progress made in the Partnership’s priority areas. These priorities focus on inclusive and sustainable socio-economic development; young people, democracy, good governance and human rights; bringing peoples together, mobility and migration; as well as security and the fight against terrorism.

Since 2011, Tunisia has been transitioning towards democracy, making it a source of hope at regional level and beyond. Significant progress was made in 2018, particularly the holding of municipal elections in May 2018 with the full support of the EU, marking a key milestone in the decentralisation process. However, the report also notes that the transition can only be sustained if it is accompanied by social and economic progress on a similar scale. As a result, in this year of significant elections, it is vital to continue to make progress in implementing the strategic priorities of the EU-Tunisia Partnership and the EU-Tunisia Youth Partnership.

The report also notes that EU funding for cooperation has continued to strengthen the Privileged Partnership between the two parties. The intense work on EU-Tunisia relations over the last year resulted in an unprecedented financial commitment from the EU, using the Neighbourhood Instrument budget, totalling € 305 million in the form of grants for key sectors, such as support for innovation and start-ups, youth, energy efficiency, tourism diversification and the redevelopment of poorer neighbourhoods. In addition to this amount, there are also thematic lines and regional programmes.

The EU remains Tunisia’s main trading partner, and in 2018 it was the destination for three quarters of Tunisia’s exports and the source of over half of its imports. The EU is still the largest foreign investor in Tunisia, accounting for over 85 % of all direct foreign investment in the country, where there are more than 3 000 European companies employing over 300 000 people.

The main initiatives in 2018 include programmes to support competitiveness and exports, for both industry and agriculture, support for modernisation of the administration and tax reforms, as well as support to prepare for and reduce the risks of natural disasters. The impact and tangible results for citizens are central to the follow-up of these initiatives. 

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EU mobilises over €18 million for the Central African Republic in 2019

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As many people continue to suffer in the Central African Republic (CAR), the European Union continues to stand in solidarity with the people in need in the country and announces €18.85 million in humanitarian assistance for 2019. This additional support brings EU humanitarian assistance in CAR to more than €135 million since 2014.

Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, said: ‘For the EU, the humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic is not a forgotten crisis. We will continue providing assistance to bring life-saving relief to the people in need. We remain, however, concerned about violence levelled against civilians and aid workers in the Central African Republic. Innocent people and humanitarian workers are not a target.’

EU humanitarian funding in the Central African Republic aims at:

helping conflict-affected people whose basic survival depends on humanitarian assistance. Internally displaced people, host communities and returnees are provided with food aid, emergency health and nutrition treatment, water and hygiene, shelter, basic essential items, education, and support to their livelihoods;

preventing violence and providing medical, psychosocial and legal support to victims of violence and human rights breaches;

tackling the food and nutrition crisis with assistance for families in need and for people at high risk of undernutrition, and support to the health sector to step up malnutrition prevention and treatment;

supporting the delivery of aid to areas where poor infrastructure and ongoing fighting make access difficult for humanitarian workers.

The Central African crisis has also an impact on the entire region as 592,000 refugees have sought refuge in neighbouring countries to which the EU is providing support as well.

Background

Since 2013, violent conflict has plunged the Central African Republic into turmoil and a protracted humanitarian crisis. Despite a new peace agreement signed in February 2019, people continue to be affected by violence. Attacks against civilians have been a major driver of the humanitarian situation in the country, leading to mass displacements and a total rupture of their means of subsistence, mainly agriculture.

More than half of the Central African Republic’s population is in need of humanitarian assistance to survive and a quarter of the population is displaced. An estimated 1.8 million people are suffering from a severe lack of food, and almost 38% of children under five years suffer from chronic malnutrition. Almost two thirds of the population has no access to health care, while access to basic social services remains largely dependent on humanitarian actors.

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New mandate must bring equality for women

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PES Women President Zita Gurmai speaks at the meeting

Gender equality and parity within the institutions must be priorities for the next mandate, PES Women said today as it released a statement ‘Call for a feminist Europe’.

PES Women – which promotes gender equality and women’s representation both inside and outside the Party of European Socialists – was gathering for the first time since the European elections.

PES Women members unanimously adopted Call for a feminist Europe, reiterating and outlining the steps the EU institutions must take to achieve greater gender equality.

PES Women President Zita Gurmai, said:“We are entering the ninth mandate of the European Parliament, and yet we have still not achieved gender equality. Last month’s vote saw an increase in the number of women elected to the European Parliament, which is very welcome. But despite this, no institution comes close to ensuring equal representation in decision-making for women, or gender equality more generally. So after the PES feminist campaign, this is what we are reiterating today. It is time for a feminist Europe where every woman and girl can exercise her freedoms, choices and rights.”

2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action – an agenda for women’s empowerment adopted at the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, China, 1995). As this anniversary is approached, Call for a feminist Europe picks up many of the areas the Platform for Action identified.

The PES Women statement calls for:

Gender-balanced committees, committee chairs and heads of delegations in the European Parliament;

That national governments propose two candidates, a woman and a man, for Commissioner to ensure gender parity in the Commission’s college;

Gender equality as a stand-alone European Commission portfolio, and as a priority of the Commission President or Vice-President, and a feminist approach to overall Commission policy-making;

The European Commission to introduce gender budgeting, and more resources to strengthen women’s rights, including for the European Institute for Gender Equality;

All institutions to amplify their ambitions to create and adopt legislation that improves the lives of women and girls in Europe; and, reaffirm their aim to achieve full gender equality, including through training for staff and policy-makers on gender mainstreaming.

All institutions to introduce reporting mechanisms and mandatory training for staff and elected members on all types of harassment and sexism.

The statement also advocates for an ambitious and binding EU Gender Equality Strategy that ends all gender gaps – especially the gender pay gap, makes the work-life-balance Directive a reality, empowers women, combats gender-based violence, and ensures access to sexual and reproductive rights. This was a key proposal of PES Common Candidate Frans Timmermans, who PES Women continue to fully support for the President of the European Commission.

Together with Iratxe Garcia Perez, newly elected President of the Social Democratic Group, PES Women will continue its commitment to women’s rights, further enhancing the chances of successfully taking forward gender equality policies in the European Parliament.

Read Call for a feminist Europe here

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Juncker Plan reaches almost €410 billion in triggered investment across the EU

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As of June 2019, the deals approved under the Juncker Plan amount to €75 billion in financing and are located in all 28 Member States. Some 952,000 start-ups and small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are expected to benefit from improved access to finance.

Currently, the top five countries ranked in order of investment triggered relative to GDP are Greece, Estonia, Bulgaria, Portugal and Latvia.

The EIB has approved €55.2 billion worth of finance for infrastructure and innovation projects, which should generate €252.5 billion of additional investments, while the European Investment Fund (EIF), which is part of the EIB Group, has approved €19.8 billion worth of agreements with intermediary banks and funds to finance SMEs, which are expected to generate €155.9 billion of additional investments.

European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said: “With these latest figures we have reached a new milestone, surpassing €400 billion in investment mobilised across the EU. This is a huge achievement and shows that by using a small amount of the EU budget as a guarantee, you can attract private investment for the public good. We are on track to reach our goal of €500 billion by the end of 2020, and the Commission will continue to mobilise investments under the InvestEU Programme from 2021 onwards.”

Based on the projects approved until July 2018, the Commission and the EIB estimate that the Juncker Plan has already supported 750,000 jobs and increased EU GDP by 0.6%. By 2020, the Juncker Plan is set to create 1.4 million jobs and increase EU GDP by 1.3%.

Background

The Investment Plan for Europe – the Juncker Plan – focuses on strengthening European investments to create jobs and growth. It does so by making smarter use of new and existing financial resources, removing obstacles to investment, and providing visibility and technical assistance to investment projects. The European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) is the central pillar of the Juncker Plan. It provides a first loss guarantee, allowing the EIB to invest in more, often riskier, projects.

On 6 June 2018, the Commission proposed for the next long-term EU budget 2021-2027, to create the InvestEU Programme, bringing EU budget financing in the form of loans and guarantees under one roof. The new programme will consist of the InvestEU Fund, the InvestEU Advisory Hub and the InvestEU Portal. After negotiations with the Member States, on 18 April the European Parliament gave its green light to the InvestEU Programme.

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