A Deal – and Much Criticism

The EU and Tunisia intend to collaborate in order to restrict migration across the Mediterranean. While conservative politicians welcome the agreement, others express strong opposition.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stood before a Tunisian and an EU flag as she explained the memorandum of understanding in the Presidential Palace in Tunis. They have decided on a comprehensive package of measures that should now be implemented quickly.

The package includes five points. If Tunisia meets certain conditions, it will receive 900 million euros – among other things, to promote its struggling economy and to expand digital infrastructure and renewable energy. Additionally, for example, there are plans to expand the European student exchange program, Erasmus, to the country.

105 million euros for combating illegal migration

However, the most important point is that 105 million euros are allocated for the Tunisian government to combat irregular migration. The EU wants a partnership to combat smuggling, according to von der Leyen.

“We will also strengthen our coordination in search and rescue operations,” said the Commission President. “And we have agreed to cooperate on border control, returns, and addressing root causes, fully respecting international law.”

“Integral part” of asylum reform

Cooperation with countries from which people flee or through which they transit is a crucial element of the new pact on asylum and migration. Member states are currently negotiating this with the European Parliament.
CDU member of parliament Lena Dupont welcomed the agreement with Tunisia as an integral part of the reform of the common asylum system: “It is right that we focus on combating smuggling with new vigor, also in cooperation with third countries. At the same time, we offer support and incentives for the respective countries to stabilize their own situation.”

“Combat causes, not refugees”

In other parties, however, the agreement is met with clear criticism. The EU concluded it on the same day when reports about the fate of at least 80 migrants became known. According to their own statements, they were abandoned by Tunisian authorities in the desert without water and food.
“Making a migration agreement with a country like Tunisia, which drives migrants into the desert to die, is a mockery of human rights and explicitly makes itself guilty of the deaths of even more people fleeing,” angrily states Cornelia Ernst of Die Linke. She demands a withdrawal of the agreement.

Like her, Erik Marquardt is also annoyed that the European Parliament was not involved. From the perspective of the Green Party member of parliament, the memorandum of understanding is not about improving the situation of people. Instead, it is primarily about preventing people from fleeing Tunisia to Europe. “And I think that is devastating. We must combat the causes of flight, not the refugees.”

Despite all the criticism, the agreement with Tunisia could, according to reports from Brussels, serve as a blueprint for agreements with other countries in Africa.