Kais Saied: “EU legislators not welcome in Tunisia”

Tunisia’s President Kais Saied condemned what he called attempts to interfere in his country’s affairs following reports that a European Parliament delegation was barred from entering Tunis last week.

The agreement, which was focused on stemming migration through Tunisia to Europe, includes substantial aid from Brussels, but comes with demands for economic reforms.

The two-day visit by legislators was set to assess the political situation in Tunisia following a partnership agreement signed in July by the EU and Tunisia.

In a meeting with Tunisian Prime Minister Ahmed Hachani and other ministers on Monday, Mr Saied said that “those who come from abroad to inspect” were “unwelcome and will not be allowed to enter”.

The delegation, led by German politician Michael Gahler, was scheduled to arrive in Tunis on Thursday on a two-day visit to “get a better insight into the current political situation in the country”, the European Parliament said earlier on Wednesday.

“They are making accusations as if they had replaced the public prosecution. Please stop interfering in our affairs because we did not interfere in their affairs,” he said.

Mr Saied said the visit was an attempt to undermine Tunisia’s sovereignty and called on similar practices to stop.

“Stop talking about missions coming to Tunisia to inspect us as if we were under colonialism and [someone’s] guardianship,” he said during Monday’s ministerial meeting. “We work within the scope of transparency more than they do.”

The EU promised Tunisia a €1 billion ($1.12 billion) support package, about €100 million of which would go to helping it secure its borders.

But the financial aid package remains pending until certain conditions are fulfilled.

In a press briefing in Brussels on Monday, the European Commission said that it has not yet begun transferring money to Tunisia under July’s agreement.

Spokeswoman Ana Pisonero told journalists in Brussels that “Tunisia has not yet received a single euro” from the EU. The payment process could take some time, she said.

The European Parliament condemned Tunisia’s decision to bar its foreign affairs committee delegation.

“This conduct is unprecedented since the democratic revolution in 2011,” the committee said on Thursday. It demanded a “detailed explanation”.

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