Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed has warned that Europe can only stem the flow of migrants reaching its shores by helping to improve conditions in the countries that they are leaving.
Saïed told Euronews that an approach to migration that only deals with security - preventing people from reaching Europe - would ultimately fail to solve what is a global crisis.
On the sidelines of meetings in Brussels, Euronews sat down with Saïed to discuss the partnership that his country has with the EU to slow the flow of migrants to Europe and other issues.
Euronews: Several subjects of top importance are on the table for discussion with European officials, and in particular, the migration partnership.
What cooperation strategy does your country plan to adopt in terms of exchanging information on illegal departures from Tunisia to Europe?
Kaïs Saïed: "I have talked about this topic on several occasions, about illegal or legal migration.
Many people talk about a solution to solve the problem based on security. But it's very clear that this option is not enough to curb the migratory wave.
If those illegal immigrants had fulfilled their ambition to live well and to make their dreams come true, and had the same opportunities European citizens have in their countries, the immigration issue would not be raised. It is better to find out about the real reasons for immigration rather than analysing the phenomena.
Many illegal immigrants who reach Europe from Tunisia and North Africa are exploited by criminal organisations: they are forced to do illegal work, which violates their rights as refugees.
We must also talk about the legal migration of academics and other high-skilled workers. For example, in the past year only, nearly five hundred doctors went to Europe."
What about the resources that Tunisia needs from the EU to fight human trafficking networks that are active in Tunisia?
"To fight these networks in Tunisia, but also in Europe, you need to look at those who welcome them. Who receives them when they turn up to work in the fields or in factories, or even on the black market? Who exploits them and who benefits from it? It's here in Europe.
These migrants are forced to work illegally, so it is absolutely necessary to combat human trafficking networks within Europe as well. There will be no security and no peace here unless we eliminate the causes that led to this illegal migration. Some illegal immigrants were forced to do so because they had lost all kind of hope, they had no dream."
The EU and Tunisia established a privileged partnership in 2012. With this action plan, priority is given to socio-economic development. How will you, thanks to this partnership, create job opportunities in Tunisia to tackle youth unemployment?
"There are agreements with a number of European countries and with the EU regarding this matter of creating jobs for youth. I told them: 'We should find a new mechanism in order to build justice within the world'."
Did Europeans listen, when you talked to them about the difficulties Tunisia faced to obtain enough Covid-19 vaccines in order to reduce virus transmission?
"Yes, they listened to us. I'm talking here about operational solutions. In Tunisia, we tried different action plans for vaccination, but there are still insufficient and ineffective.
In recent days, we've had alarming signals coming from different regions in Tunisia that were suffering from oxygen shortage and lack of medical supplies, but we've managed to get the situation under control. These catastrophic situations can be treated with a global approach to assistance, not just within one country."
Let's move now to the fight against terrorism. Just after the 2011 Revolution, Tunisia saw jihadist movements that were active near the borders with Libya and Algeria. Where is Tunisia now in its fight against jihadist groups?
"Tunisia is not a country targeted by terrorism on a daily basis, ours is a safe country. We protect our society by establishing a platform of cultural values aimed at protecting citizens from becoming involved in terrorism -- which mainly threatens people who are victims of a certain intellectual precariousness."
This year, we witnessed the establishment of some Arab countries' officials and diplomatic relations with Israel. How does Tunisia view this step?
"We respect every country in its freedom to take decisions, we do not want to interfere in other states' decisions at all. They are free, but we are also free to take our own decisions."