Tunisia: European Partners Fracture on Migration, Reform Agendas

by | Jul 11, 2023 | Diplomacy, Economic, Security, Tunisia


Irregular migration has led to fractures amongst key European partners as disagreements continue over how Tunisia’s benefactors will balance urgency in providing assistance with calls for systemic reform.

On 8 July 2023, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte tendered the resignation of his ruling party government to the King of the Netherlands, including the resignation of all ministers and state secretaries. Rutte cited disagreement over the issue of migration as a primary cause for the dissolution of his coalition government comprised of four political parties.

PM Rutte was part of a group of European leaders who visited Tunisia in June, hailing their achievements as a “blueprint” for a new European approach to managing irregular migration in North Africa.

Meanwhile, a nearly $1 billion aid package for Tunisia negotiated by the European Commission came under fire this week as the Tunisian government expelled sub-Saharan African migrants to remote desert areas. Numerous European parliamentarians criticized the Commission’s dealmaking with Tunisia for failing to address human rights concerns and democratic backsliding.


The recent crackdown on migrants in Tunisia that included the expulsion of hundreds to remote border areas has drawn significant criticism both of the current Tunisian administration and the European partners seeking to support Tunisia’s ability to stem the flow of migrants to Europe.

The issue of migration has grown increasingly contentious in Europe, with many leaders facing growing domestic pressure to find short-term solutions to slow the flow of migrants. Those same leaders face the challenge of aiding the flagging Tunisian economy which requires an immediate bailout to maintain stability, while also requiring a longer-term approach to reform that will be sustainable and stable.

Political fractures like those in the Dutch government could emerge elsewhere as the migration challenge continues to dominate headlines with no easy solutions available. 

The current upheaval in Europe appears unlikely to derail the bailout effort led by the European Commission. However, if Tunisia continues to draw out the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan negotiation process, the economy will only come under more stress, creating greater tensions and possibilities for unrest.             


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