Tunisia's Marzouki: 'We want no Baath flag over our country'

Tunisia's Marzouki: 'We want no Baath flag over our country'
By Euronews
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Two months after taking power, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki faces multiple challenges. His top priorities are to restore security and to solve economic and social problems in Tunisia.

Euronews spoke to him at the presidential palace in Carthage, where he expressed confidence for the future of Tunisia despite the impasse in which the country finds itself today.

euronews: “Dr. Moncef Marzouki, as a human rights activist and former opponent of the Ben Ali regime, you’ve experienced exile, house arrest and prison. Today thanks to the revolution of the Tunisian people you are president. Political life has both difficulties and benefits. In what ways have you now changed?”

President Moncef Marzouki:
“Nothing has changed, it’s only my surroundings. I’ve not changed, I’m still the same, I’ve not changed my beliefs or my habits and traditions. From all that I’ve learnt as an opponent of the problems in opposition, now I try to solve them while in power. It is the nature of the problems that has changed and the decor. Apart from that everything remains the same.”

euronews: “If we talk of the political situation in the country, there are currently divisions within one of the political parties, Ettakatol, which forms the ruling coalition. Is there dissatisfaction from those within the party, also known as the Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties, who believe the Ennahdha party is attempting to get hold of all the power?”

President Moncef Marzouki:
“What’s happening within the political parties, including within Ettakatol, is brought to me, and is part of the spirit of change that exists right now. What we fear is that the restructuring phase will last too long or it will lead to new and undesired political situations. What we want is a strong and stable political situation that serves the interests of the country. All that being said, talk of divisions within the coalition is baseless. This government is only a few months old, so divisive talk is just fabricated to sell newspapers.”

euronews: “If I may Mr President, many Tunisians believe that the partnership between the Forum and Ennahdha was formed to begin with in order to create a political balance in the country, but now it is really Ennahdha which holds political power. Are the limited powers of the president being seen here?”

President Moncef Marzouki:
“During the formation of this coalition government, we were in a position of strength and not weakness. We knew that Ennahdha could not govern alone. So when we discussed the division of powers, we followed an agreement on a very clear political programme, which guarantees respect for human rights, the rights of women, the rights of children and any civil rights. Then we determined the powers of the president and I think these are the things that require a lot of time; the president is in charge of foreign policy in consultation with the government, he is in charge of defence policy, the promulgation of laws, and I must say I am very satisfied with his powers.”

euronews: “Many Tunisians also think there is foreign intervention in the political decisions of the Tunisian authorities, and specifically from the state of Qatar. What do you say that?”

President Moncef Marzouki:
“All I can tell you is that we take our decisions in full sovereignty. No one intervenes in the affairs of Tunisia and not even Qatar. The Qataris are willing to help but we do not receive orders from people, not the United States, France, Qatar or anyone.”

euronews: “Regarding the security situation in the country. Demonstrations and strikes continue despite your calls for a social truce. Does the government remain unable to solve the security problems that threaten the country, and is there a clear strategy to restore order?”

President Moncef Marzouki:
“There are probably some security issues following the demonstrations and protests; many of these protests are legitimate due to the suffering of people who are tired because of their social situation and we understand this.

“On other hand there are people who just want to make trouble. With regard to this situation, the government follows a policy of discipline and mastery.

“Because we are born of the revolution we are following this so people cannot use the same methods of repression that were used before by Ben Ali, such as shooting people in the name of state sovereignty. We reject that.”

euronews: “Regarding the economic situation in the country, what are the concrete measures that the government has taken to regain investor confidence and promote the economy? Especially given recent economic inefficiencies.”

President Moncef Marzouki:
“We need people to understand that this government has only been in power for two months. It needs two or three years to build a strong foundation for an economic renaissance. The government is now laying the foundations for fundamental reforms which will see results in around five years. That’s what people have to understand.”

euronews: Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, recently visited Tunisia and said gave orders that Tunisia should work on the issue of employment and investments…”

President Moncef Marzouki:
“…She has not given orders.”

euronews: “She also proposed lending money to Tunisia. Will you once again have to be the ‘teacher’s pet’ of the IMF? Is that the price that Tunisia, the country of the revolution, will have to pay to get out of its economic crisis?”

President Moncef Marzouki:
“No one but the Tunisian people have the right to give orders to the president and nobody but the Tunisian people can create a government. Certainly there are financial issues but we are a country of revolution. The economy must serve only the people. My position is clear on that, and we refuse to take direction from anyone. We make our decisions in full sovereignty, and to serve the interests of Tunisians.”

euronews: “You have made the decision to expel the Syrian ambassador to Tunisia in protest against the policy of repression by the regime against its civilians. Arab countries have proposed a draft resolution condemning the Syrian regime in the UN Security Council but no Arab country has taken such action, none have returned the Syrian ambassador. Do you not see this as double talk from these countries?”

President Moncef Marzouki:
“Faced with the savagery and repression by the Syrian regime, the question is not about the interests of Tunisia, but above all its honour. We were the first country to have a revolution: we lead by example.”

“We have our national pride and also a duty to help this country, but how can we help if we are against military intervention? At least symbolically therefore we do not want the flag of the Baath regime to be raised in our country.

“We took this decision in honour of Tunisia and of the Tunisian revolution. This is a message to our brothers in Syria to tell them that we support them.”

“Mr. President you are in favour of the departure of Bashar Assad to Russia, do you then withdraw your call for former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to stand trial in Tunisia?”

President Moncef Marzouki:
“If this alternative helps to stop the slaughter in Syria, I am ready to accept it, even if it goes against justice. But I always say that the lives of thousands of Syrians are much more important than bringing this man to justice.”

euronews: “You have mentioned on many occasions the issue of partnership with the European Union, Tunisia’s largest trading partner. What is the new Tunisian strategy in its relations with the European Union, and is there a willingness to review the agreements that several observers have said appear to be unfair to Tunisia?”

President Moncef Marzouki:
“Our relations with the European Union are strong and we seek to develop them in order to serve the interests of Tunisia. I think there is a strong will on the other side of the Mediterranean to help Tunisia, given the importance of the Tunisian revolution. Our prime minister has recently met with European leaders, and I will do the same on my next visit to Brussels and Strasbourg.”

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