The European Union (EU) Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday said the organization is considering offering over 1 billion euros ($1.07 billion) in aid for Tunisia to help develop the country’s shattered economy, rescue state finances and deal with a migration crisis, reported Africa News.
Von der Leyen’s statement came on Sunday when she was with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in Tunisia on Sunday for talks with the country’s President Kais Saied.
The EU Commission chief said the organization is considering providing an economic aid package of up to €900 million ($970 million) plus €150 million in immediate budget assistance to Tunisia. The aid will also include €105 million for border management and anti-smuggling activities.
She said that European Commission’s plan will be discussed with all 27 EU countries at their next summit which is scheduled to take place on June 29 and 30.
She added that if a necessary agreement can be found then the aid would be delivered as part of a five-point program that includes tougher action against illegal migration.
“We both have a vast interest in breaking the cynical business model of smugglers and traffickers,” von der Leyen said in Tunis.
The European leaders’ visit to Tunisia comes as the United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR, claimed that most migrants recently registering in Italy came from the North African country, which is in the grips of a worsening economic crisis.
Ahead of the trip, Tunisian President Kais Saied said his country was not prepared to protect the borders of other countries. Saied seized most powers in 2021, shutting down parliament and moving to rule by decree.
In related news, talks between the Tunisian government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a $1.9 billion loan have been stalled for months, with Tunisian President Kais Saied rejecting key terms for the proposed deal.