French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been promoting his Union for the Mediterranean project while on a three-day visit to Tunisia. In the capital, he told French and Tunisian business leaders that Europe should work with its southern Mediterranean neighbours to challenge Asia economically. North Africa’s wealthiest country is a former French colony and one of France’s closest Arab world allies.
The French will hold the EU’s rotating presidency for the second half of this year, and will seek to stimulate cross-Med relations. Sarkozy said: “In Asia, neighbouring countries have harnessed their complementary strengths. The drama of the Mediterranean is that it is on just the opposite path: opposing and excluding one another.”
France and Tunis signed several lucrative deals but skipped over human rights. Critics accuse Tunis of stifling the media and repressing dissidents – though it denies this. Sarkozy’s Mediterranean Union of states encircling the sea was scaled back after resistance from European Union members but is due for launch at a summit in July.