BRUSSELS, Sept 29 The European Commission
proposed on Thursday to increase aid to Tunisia and complete a
deeper trade pact within three years, as the EU seeks to support
the new government in Tunis and support it on its difficult path
The bloc would nearly double its current annual aid to 300
million euros until 2020, as well as lend 500 million euros to
help stabilise the Tunisian economy, to be disbursed this year
and next. European development bank loans and other financing
also could bring 800 million euros for infrastructure projects.
"The money is not unconditional," the EU's enlargement
commissioner Johannes Hahn, told a joint news conference with
the EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who proposed
summits every two years between EU and Tunisian leaders.
"We have decided to double our financial effort, not only
because Tunisia needs the money but to increase our leverage,"
Tunisia already has limited access to the world's biggest
trading bloc, but a deeper trade accord would integrate its
economy into the EU's internal market, if agreed by EU
governments and the European Parliament.
Talks started in April this year and the Commission pledged
in a new policy document on Thursday "to bring concrete
deliverables within three years."
Tunisia has gone through five prime ministers in as many
years since its revolution, with its sixth, French-educated
technocrat Youssef Chahed, taking office in August.
The European Union is eager for Tunisia, seen as the only
success story of the Arab Spring revolts which started there, to
avoid the repression and war that has consumed many of its
neighbours that attempted uprisings against authoritarian rule.
Facing a migration crisis and failing states on its borders,
the European Union has a vested interest in Tunisia's stability.
The North African state is struggling with lower tourism
revenues after two Islamist militant attacks on foreign tourists
last year hit what is one of its key industries.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott, editing by Robert-Jan Bartunek)