Tunisia is “desperately” seeking closer economic cooperation with Europe two years after the Arab Spring uprising to help tackle frustration at its failure to raise living standards, the head of the EU parliament said on Tuesday.
“I have the impression (that the authorities) are desperately seeking the economic cooperation that they need to develop their growth potential,” Martin Schultz told AFP during a visit to the north African country.
“We as Europeans must understand that our economic cooperation with Tunisia should be much stronger,” Schultz said, adding that the country was a key ally for Europe, as it sought to preserve its “Islamic traditions in a pluralist society.”
Speaking after talks with Hamadi Jebali, Schultz said the Tunisian prime minister was “aware of the pressure in the country,” and of the “enormous” expectations of the people.
Angry protests have multiplied across Tunisia in recent months, often degenerating into violence, over the government’s failure to provide jobs and economic development, key factors behind the revolution that began on December 17, 2010.
President Moncef Marzouki was pelted with stones during a visit on Monday to Sidi Bouzid, the marginalized central town where the mass protests first erupted that led to the overthrow of veteran dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.