EU and Tunisia II

I realise that I may sound slightly sarcastic about the parliament’s efforts to be diplomatic when I’m picking out only the parts of Tunisian praise.

Actually the parliament has, at times, been very critical of the development of human rights in Tunisia. See for example the parliamentary debate from February 2010 where all political groups praise the Tunisian developments except Greens/EFA and GUE/NGL who say:

You have all rightly pointed out that Tunisia was our first partner to sign an association agreement. This is true, and that is why all this is very worrying, because we are not talking here about gaps, Commissioner, or about small steps. No. There is a huge, ongoing decline in human rights and democracy in Tunisia.

Hélène Flautre, Greens

Since September [2009], there has been a real drift towards an authoritarian police state, as the case of Taoufik Ben Brik, who will be tried next Saturday, shows. However, we could also mention Zouhair Makhlouf and Fahem Boukadous, one of whom was convicted for talking about the environmental conditions in his country, and the other for taking part in workers’ demonstrations in his country.

Yes, this is the social situation in Tunisia. Human rights defenders such as Kamel Jendoubi, Sihem Bensedrine, Sana Ben Achour, and Kemais Chamari are victims of a disgraceful press campaign. Sadok Chourou has been rotting in jail for the last 16 years, and Radhia Nasraoui, who acts as his lawyer, has been dragged through the mud, her career permanently damaged.

Marie-Christine Vergiat, GUE/NGL

I do not deny that the parliament in a resolution in 2006 said

21. Believes, however, that border checks and action to combat illegal immigration can be only one aspect of the EU’s policy towards third countries, to which an active country of origin and transit development policy must be applied with a view to minimising the damaging effects of emigration;

23. Stresses that any measures to combat illegal immigration and step up external border controls, even where in cooperation with third countries, must be compatible with the safeguards and the fundamental rights of the individual laid down in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, notably the right to asylum and the right of non-refoulement;

Or that the parliament has called all Member States to

/…/ contribute to the prevention of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, to monitor technical assistance to third countries in order to prevent this technical assistance from being misused for the production of goods for the purpose of capital punishment or torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;

Or that the parliament wants the EU to

urge third countries to prevent the use, production and trade of equipment which is designed to inflict torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and prevent the abuse of any other equipment to these ends,

This is why the parliament has been praising Tunisia’s development, and it is why I feel so overcome by cynicism and despair. Trade sanctions should really not be used lightly, and the trade embargo in Iraq through the 1990s brought absolutely no good. They were ill targetted and remained in place for a long time to the detriment of civilians all over the country. I find it worrying that the arms trade with the Magreb countries is so extensive, and I find the French nuclear trade with Tunisia to be a cause for concern. It is worrying that in a time of food crisis in Tunisia, their main export to Europe is agricultural products and that that 50% of total Magreb country exports go to Europe. I can be as worried as the European parliament in text, and I can be as outraged, but why noone wants to do anything but text is really beyond me.

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