EU pledges more aid for Tunisia
BRUSSELS - The European Union pledged Monday to intensify efforts to aid Tunisia as it tackles economic troubles and a jihadist threat in its transition to democracy five years after its revolution.
"The European Union sees it is necessary and obvious to mobilise all our efforts to support the Tunisian government and people in order for the democratic transition and country to succeed," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said after a meeting in Luxembourg with Tunisian Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui.
In a joint statement, the EU pledged to "intensify efforts to identify all the opportunities for extra assistance".
However, Tunisia must itself take steps to better absorb international aid and reinforce coordination with international sponsors, it said.
The EU, a major partner with Tunisia since its revolution in 2011 launched the "Arab Spring," has doubled its financial aid to the country to about one billion euros ($1.13 billion) in the last five years, Mogherini told reporters.
Loans of 500 million euros were released in February.
The bloc is also currently negotiating a free-trade deal with the north African country and is offering to help young Tunisians travel to Europe to study and conduct research.
It has also increased the quantity of Tunisian olive oil exempted from import duties.
While Tunisia is hailed as a political success story of the Arab Spring uprisings, authorities have failed to redress the economy, with tourism particularly hard hit by a wave of jihadist attacks.
The Islamic State (ISIS) group claimed attacks last year on the Bardo museum in Tunis and a resort hotel that killed 59 tourists in total, as well as a suicide bombing on a bus that killed 12 presidential guards.
Dozens of members of the security forces have died fighting extremists since the 2011 revolution that ousted longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
In March, 20 people were killed in an attack on police and army positions in the town of Ben Guerdane, near the Libyan border. That attack was also blamed on ISIS.