Tunisia: EU to Release Needed Cash as Coast Guard Effectiveness Increases

by | Dec 22, 2023 | Diplomacy, Economic, Political, Tunisia


On 20 December 2023, the European Commission and the Tunisian government announced that the EU would release 150 million in financial assistance following a delay in how a July 2023 assistance deal would be implemented. 

Following the public disagreement between Tunisian and EU leadership over implementation of the July assistance agreement, cooperation has resumed despite Tunisia returning 60 million payment from the EU.  

Data from October and November 2023 indicate a dramatic rise in the effectiveness of Tunisia’s Coast Guard interception operations. This increase in effectiveness coincided with the European Commission indicating that technical and operational support for Tunisian counter-smuggling operations was flowing despite tensions.  

In October, Tunisia intercepted 82% of attempted sea crossings and 54% in November. This came after the interception rate had fallen to 4% in August as tensions between Tunisia and the EU peaked. 

In December, the World Organization Against Torture released a controversial report indicating that migrants continue to suffer poor treatment in Tunisia. 


While Tunisian leaders have continued to insist that they will not serve as the EU’s border police, the country’s worsening economic situation, punctuated by shortages of key goods, may be driving an increasingly pragmatic approach to external relations. 

With the 2024 budget clarifying that Tunisia will not be pursuing the substantive economic reforms recommended by many economists and, most notably, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the government will be forced to scrape together funds to cover public sector wages and subsides.  

The EU funding agreed to in July will provide stop-gap funding heading into a new year in which balancing the national budget will prove challenging, particularly as many international creditors have linked additional loan deals to some level of economic reform along the lines of what the IMF had insisted upon. 

The release of funding, expected to arrive by the end of December, won’t solve Tunisia’s economic challenges, but may create space for additional negotiating room with the EU which remains eager to demonstrate results on stemming the flow of migrants to Italy and elsewhere. 


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