The European Union signed an agreement with Tunisia aimed at preventing the irregular migration of refugees to the EU. Under the agreement, comprehensive financial assistance is envisaged to be provided to the North African country in return for preventing migration.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the EU Commission, said in a statement after meeting with Tunisian President Kays Said at the presidential palace in Tunisia that the agreed "comprehensive strategic partnership" aims to reduce irregular migration and support Tunisia's economic development.
During her visit, Leyen was accompanied by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, one of the countries most affected by irregular migration, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. The three European leaders also met with Saied last month. "We need effective cooperation more than ever before," said von der Leyen.
The agreement aims not only to take more effective measures against human smugglers, but also to improve search and rescue operations for refugees.
The signed agreement provides Tunisia with 105 million euros in EU funds to combat irregular migration. In addition, it envisages that 150 million euros in budgetary aid will be provided to the country, which is under a huge debt burden. During their visit last month, European politicians promised a long-term loan of 900 million euros. However, that money will be provided if the nearly $2 billion loan that Tunisia is currently negotiating with the International Monetary Fund, the IMF, is approved.
Tunisia is currently struggling to find loans from abroad. There are constant bottlenecks in the supply of basic foodstuffs such as flour, sugar and rice, which are dependent on imports in the country.