— 17 April 2013
The Tunisia – EU Privileged Partnership

 The EMHRN in partnership with the UGTT, the LTDH, the ATFD, the CRLDHT, the IADH, the Collectif 95 Maghreb Egalité, Doustourna and the FTDES

STATEMENT

THE TUNISIA-EU PRIVILEGED PARTNERSHIP

Civil Society: a key stakeholder for a renewed partnership

based on Human rights

 

Tunis, 17 April  2013 – The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network and its members and partner organisations in Tunisia, strongly urge the Tunisian Government and the European Union to involve civil society actors in the implementation and follow-up of the objectives of the Tunisia-EU Action Plan adopted within the framework of the Privileged Partnership. This call follows the conference on Human Rights Opportunities and Challenges and Democratic reforms in the framework of Tunisia-EU Privileged Partnership, held on 12 April in Tunis.

In this critical period of democratic transition, civil society urges to be recognised and involved as a full-fledged partner in identifying priorities and assessing policies implemented in the framework of EU-Tunisia relations.

While Civil Society actors have welcomed previously held meetings with representatives of the Tunisian government and the EU, they nonetheless emphasize the need to reinforce transparency and civil society participation, so as to enable it to support democratic transition, human rights and gender equality through the Tunisia-EU partnership.

In light of this, civil society participants have:

  1. Called for new relations between Tunisia and the EU to be based on the respect of fundamental rights, in the framework of a balanced partnership between the two shores of the Mediterranean;
  2. Welcomed the Tunisian government’s and the EU’s invitation to involve civil society in the implementation, follow-up and assessment of the privileged Partnership’s Action Plan;
  3. Requested the establishment of an institutionalized mechanism between Tunisian and European authorities and civil society for systematic consultations on the Tunisia-EU policies as well as on the follow-up and assessment of the implementation of the action plan and financial cooperation;
  4. Called for the regular assessment of progress made on the basis of criteria, indicators and a well-defined schedule;
  5. Reaffirmed their willingness to continue consultations and to elaborate recommendations in order to ensure priorities are granted to Human rights issues in the Tunisia-EU partnership.

This conference provided Tunisian civil society organisations the opportunity to express their concerns and  formulate a set of recommendations regarding the most serious Human rights issues relevant to EU-Tunisian bilateral relations, i.e.: fundamental rights and gender equality, refugees and migrants rights, social and economic rights as well as Justice reform.

The debate brought together more than 180 representatives from Tunisian civil society as well as representatives from the Tunisian government, Member States of the European Union and the EU delegation in Tunis. The opening session was chaired by the Minister of Social Affairs, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Secretary of State for Migration, representing the Tunisian side. Europe was represented by the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Political Section Officer representing the EU Ambassador to Tunisia.

Context

In the aftermath of the Revolution of 14 January 2011, the revival of Tunisia-EU relations was crowned by the conclusion of a Privileged Partnership during the Association Council held on 19 November 2012. This global partnership is structured around 3 pillars: political cooperation, economic and social integration as well as a partnership between peoples. It notably opened the way for negotiations on a Mobility Partnership and an in-depth free trade agreement.

An Action Plan for 2013-2017 embodies this partnership with objectives related to democracy and human rights. This chapter provides commitments mainly related to women’s rights, fundamental liberties, refugee rights, the Justice reform as well as international conventions related to human rights. This Action Plan represents an important political commitment, on the one hand for the Tunisian Government to implement reforming strategies jointly defined by the two parties and on the other hand for the EU to support this action. The challenge today is to implement this Action Plan. However, in spite of meetings and exchange of information between governmental and NGO representatives, civil society components expressed concern about the lack of transparency and the absence of real involvement of civil society in defining these objectives.

In the framework of the Privileged Partnership, the Tunisian government and the EU have committed to promote human rights and to ensure civil society participation in the development of relations in all sectors including political, economic and migration sectors.

Concerning the financial assistance, the EU confirmed its support to Tunisia by planning the allocation of 400 million Euros for the 2011-2013 period – versus 240 million Euros announced before the Revolution- in accordance with its “more for more” approach reflecting the reviewed European Neighbourhood Policy following the Arab Spring. The EU is also committed to consult civil society about the elaboration and follow up of programs.

Two years after the Tunisian revolution, challenges raised by European policies with Tunisia and their impacts are crucial to support the democratic transition. The Arab Spring has led the EU to reconsider its partnership and its Neighbourhood Policy with Mediterranean countries by ensuring greater participation of civil society and increasing support to democratic reforms to respond to the legitimate expectations of Arab peoples and to reconstruct some of the lost trust.

The EMHRN therefore calls upon the EU and the Tunisian government to ensure that democratic reform and the promotion of human rights are at the core of all policies between Tunisia and the EU, thereby effectively supporting the transition process. The success of this partnership, however, depends on the implementation of a transparent approach and the effective participation of those subject to this policy through civil society representatives.

This conference ultimately aims at elaborating recommendations, and further debates regarding the integration of human rights objectives at all levels of EU-Tunisian relations.

The EMHRN

A network of more than 80 human rights organisations, institutions and individuals based in 30 countries in the Euro-Mediterranean region. Established in 1997 in response to the Barcelona Declaration and the establishment of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership with a membership adhering to universal human rights universal principles and convinced of the value of cooperation and dialogue across and within borders.

Contacts

EMHRN : Emilie Dromzée, edr@euromedrights.net, +216 54 07 99 23

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