Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali met with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels on Tuesday and accepted further aid for the African country’s transition into democracy.
The European Commission pledged more money to aid judicial reform in Tunisia as part of the SPRING program, which is helping countries in transition after the Arab Spring.
President Barroso said the EU would stick to its partnership with Tunisia in light of the many successes the country has made, but acknowledged still many challenges remain.
“Today, we were able to sum up the results of our relations, 20 months after the beginning of the democratic transition in Tunisia. We have discussed the successes, but also the challenges that still remain. The expectations are very high in the aftermath of the democratic revolution,” said Barroso.
“I can reassure all the Tunisian citizens, as I did with their head of government, that the commitment of the European Union for the democratic Tunisia remains intact,” he added.
As part of SPRING (Support for Partnership, Reform and Inclusive Growth), the European Union has agreed to give Tunisia 25 million euros over the next four years. That money will directly fund Tunisia’s judiciary system in hopes to strengthen it and make it more independent of outside influence. In part, Tunisia will adapt its criminal and penitentiary legislation to become in line with international standards. That includes improving working conditions of judges, the supervision of minors within the legal system and the terms in which someone can be detained.
Prime Minister Jebali said the continued partnership between the European Union and Tunisia will help speed the transition to democracy and respect for human rights and expressed the hope that Tunisia will be a model for countries in similar situations.
“We hope that this support from this partnership will stay on track because this is what we really need in order to make our democratic experience a success in Tunisia and in the Arab and Islamic world,” said Jebali.
Tunisia was also the first country to draw the benefits of this program in 2011.
Jebali also commented on the attack on the U.S. embassy in Tunis last month in reaction to a film denigrating the Prophet Mohammed posted on the internet, saying there is no place for this kind of violence in the new Tunisia.
“We cannot respond to a misdeed with another misdeed. We have to be open to dialogue, to more tolerance with all those people who try to ignite confessional disputes. And in all cases we will not permit any room for violence in our country. We will not allow any act of violence against our guests and our citizens,” Jebali said.
At least two people were killed and 29 others were wounded on September 14 when hundreds of protesters ransacked the U.S. embassy in their fury over the anti-Islam film.