Italy offered Tunisia a prospect of money in exchange for economic and political reforms as European Union foreign ministers discussed on Monday how to respond to growing instability in a country that is a gateway for African migration to Europe.
With the number of people crossing the Mediterranean in smugglers’ boats on the rise, Italy’s conservative government has urged Brussels to do more to reduce irregular arrivals.
“Tunisia is a key country for stability in the Mediterranean Sea and in North Africa,” Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said on arriving for EU talks in Luxembourg.He said he hoped for an agreement between Tunis and the International Monetary Fund as well as more EU investment.
But EU countries are wary of supporting President Kais Saied, who has shut down Tunisia’s parliament, rammed through a new constitution giving him sweeping executive power, and cracked down on political opponents as well as African migrants.
Saied this month rejected the terms of a $1.9 billion IMF bailout, without which Tunisia may default on its foreign debt. The terms include cuts to food and energy subsidies and a reduction in the public wage bill.