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Tunisia's premier on 'clearing up the house' image tour


Tunisia's premier on 'clearing up the house' image tour


Tunisian Prime Minister (head of government) Mehdi Jomaa has been in Germany and Brussels on a mission to underscore his country’s need for continuing support in a time of hard transition, notably inviting European investors and tourism to return.

Euronews reporter Charles Salamé spoke to him: “You’re in Brussels while the President of the Tunisian Republic is conducting a tour of Africa and the president of the constitutional assembly is in France. You were in Berlin and now you’re in Brussels. All the people in charge of Tunisia are abroad. Why such movement?”

Tunisian Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa: “Simply because we are at a stage where we have to let people know what is happening in Tunisia. It’s been a difficult time, and it’s vital to present this very dynamic image of Tunisia — of a new Tunisia, a Tunisia that is stabilising and that can once more welcome investors and visitors. It’s to present our point of view and explain what’s happening in the region.”

euronews: “You’ve met Chancellor Angela Merkel. Is it true you’ve asked for Germany’s help to protect your border against terrorist attacks or terrorist infiltration from Libya?”

Jomaa: “Germany has important know-how in border control. In Tunisia today, we need to reinforce this, and Germany is one of the partners we’re in talks with. It’s not the only thing we’re discussing.”

euronews: “It’s about logistical reinforcement?”

Jomaa: “It’s about technical reinforcement. We’re talking about equipment, technical support and know-how — the way we’re used to working. We have the resources that can be adapted to all techniques. That’s how we want to work with Germany. But we’re also working with other friendly countries.”

euronews: “You’re afraid of extremist influence spilling over into Tunisia from Libya?”

Jomaa: “In Tunisia today I’d give the image of clearing up the inside of a house. We’re making progress but sometimes it’s difficult. We’re on the right track. I also use the image of a house where the neighbour’s home is catching fire. We have to protect our house from that spreading, and we are under an obligation to plan towards helping our Libyan brothers put out their fire. It’s not about fear. It’s being rational: admitting there are problems. There are tense households next door. We must protect ourselves effectively, take measures to guard against the danger.”

euronews: “Talking about fire… not only Libya is on fire. You’ve also got fire somewhat further away from you. Iraq and Syria are on fire. From the outset, there was a clear rise in extremists from Tunisia travelling to Syria. What’s happening with that now? Have you been able to stop that sort of jihadism?”

Jomaa: “I think we really have made a great effort for many months in order to stop that flow. We have been successful in reducing most of it but there are still Tunisian fighters in Syria, just as there are other nationalities. We realise the extent of the damage today because of all the nationalities there are in the field. We are collaborating with our neighbours and friendly countries concerned by this question, to try to deal with this scourge and protect ourselves. So I’ll zero in on tense households next door: this is where it’s important to support the Tunisian experiment and give it viable alternatives for the young people there. It’s most important that Tunisia be successful in its efforts.”

euronews: “You have decided to open an administrative office for Tunisians in Syria, but why not an embassy?”

Jomaa: “We do things in order of need, I think. The most important thing today is to try to bring support to our people who are living in Syria. It’s an obligation a state has. I think that’s the priority today.”

euronews: “But those Tunisians aren’t living in areas that are controlled by the Syrian state.”

Jomaa: “They’re living all over the place. These people in Syria are asking for services and we have a duty and an obligation to provide that support. This kind of service should be provided by all countries for their citizens.”

euronews: “What’s your analysis of Iraq now, as an Arab country?”

Jomaa: “I don’t think there’s a difference. We agree it’s critical. It’s even dangerous. I think we have always wished for Iraq, which is a great nation in Arab history, we have wished for Iraq to become stable. It isn’t today. It’s complex. We all have to contribute today, each in his own way, to stabilise Iraq. As we see everywhere, we really hope for peace and stability in this dear brother country, Iraq.”

euronews: “Let’s talk about tourism in Tunisia.”

Jomaa: “I will say that, in spite of the revolution, in spite of the image that was given off of a certain tension: not a single tourist was even touched, even at the height of the crisis. Today, I can assure you that life in the streets of Tunis is normal. The weather is getting better and better, and we’re starting to enjoy it a bit more — the sweetness of life in Tunisia. We’re doing what’s necessary to bring back tourists. I think we understand their wait and see attitude. But it’s time to come back to Tunisia now. Tunisia is ready for them, and they’ll find all the pleasures they’ve always been able to enjoy. It’s a question of image, so this tour of European countries — one of its dimensions — is to spread this reassuring message and to invite our dear European friends to come back in a big way.”

euronews: “The last question is about Tunisia’s upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections. There are requests that a president be elected by consensus. Do you share that opinion?”

Jomaa: “I have an important role, and that is to offer the elements and the conditions so that the elections unfold in the best possible way. The political parties’ role is to find ways that will suit them in the form of a coalition, an agreement for finding the president they consider will represent the Tunisian people the best, bringing about a consensus. So, I’d keep my distance on this question, and will stick to procedure strictly, to accomplish my mission and my role without interfering in questions that do not directly concern me.”

euronews: Mr Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa, aren’t you one of the candidates for the Tunisian Republic’s presidency?”

Jomaa: “No, I’m not a candidate. I’ve decided to make a success of the last stage of the democratic process and I’m concentrating on that, and I hope, with everyone’s help, to succeed in that mission. That’s the most important thing for me.”

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