Francophone summit: France grants Tunisia a loan of 200 million euros in view of the worsening economic crisis
The world’s francophone nations gathered in Tunis on Saturday for two days of talks that focused on economic cooperation but were met with demands to do more to resolve international crises.
The head of the International Organization of Francophonie, Louise Michikiwabo, called on the organization to assert its influence in a world “torn” by several crises.
On the other hand, French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Saturday to his Tunisian counterpart Kais Saied that his country would grant a 200 million euro loan to Tunisia, which is mired in a deep economic crisis exacerbated by the Russian war in Ukraine will.
Tunisian Economy Minister Samir Said said during the summit on Saturday that Tunisia is seeking international partners for investment projects worth 10 billion Tunisian dinars ($3.2 billion).
A statement issued by the Elysee read: “The President of the Republic renewed France’s support for Tunisia and the Tunisian people in addressing the challenges the country is facing.”
The French President also welcomed “the constructive and open dialogue between the Tunisian government and the International Monetary Fund in the hope that it will lead to a final agreement”.
The meeting of the two presidents came on the sidelines of the 18th session of the Francophone Summit on the island of Djerba, with the participation of about ninety delegations and 31 high-level leaders, including Senegalese President Macky Sall and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, confirming that the Francophone organization is up international level can play an “important role” in solving crises.
Since the 2011 revolution, Tunisia has been in an economic crisis, exacerbated by the impact of the Covid-19 epidemic and the lack of political stability in the country.
Russia’s war against Ukraine has contributed to deepening the crisis in a country heavily dependent on grain and fuel imports, two sectors that are seeing significant increases in prices.
Tunisia, whose debt exceeds 100 percent of gross domestic product, agreed in mid-October with the International Monetary Fund on a new loan of around two billion dollars, which is to be paid out in installments from December.
On the other hand, the Tunisian government has pledged to implement reforms, including phasing out government subsidies for staple foods and energy products, and restructuring public companies that monopolize many sectors.
Macron also discussed the political situation in Tunisia with his Tunisian counterpart, saying that “fundamental freedoms… are essential… for democratic achievements” in Tunisia, at a time when NGOs are denouncing the decline of democracy since Saeed’s decision to take power in the country on March 25. July 2021, which drew international criticism.
More generally, Macron said that the International Organization of Francophonie should be a “space of resistance and recovery” and urged it to restore its role.
The bloc has been criticized for not using its influence to resolve crises.
Macron noted that the use of French in North Africa has declined in recent decades.
“English is a new lingua franca that people have accepted,” he said. But, he added, French is the universal language of the African continent.
For their part, leaders of many African countries denounced what they saw as a lack of international solidarity in dealing with the crises on their continent, in sharp contrast to European countries’ swift support for Kyiv.
It also comes just days after leaders of the Group of 20 major industrialized and emerging economies gathered in Indonesia for talks dominated by the war in Ukraine, an observer state in the International Organization of Francophonie.
The meeting usually takes place every two years and was postponed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was postponed again last year after Saied sacked the government, suspended parliament and later dissolved the entire legislature.
French political scientist Vincent Gesser said hosting the summit was a success for Saied, who welcomed a number of leaders on the red carpet on Saturday morning.
Gezer added that the meeting would help Saeed “come out of his isolation — at least temporarily” after Canada, France and other developed countries urged Saeed to restore “constitutional order” last year.
The summit will belatedly mark the 50th anniversary of the now 88-strong group, whose members, like Armenia and Serbia, do not all speak French.
The number of French speakers in the world is approximately 321 million and the number is expected to reach 750 million in 2050.
Rwanda’s Secretary-General Louise Mushikiwabo said the bloc was “more relevant than ever” and able to add value to “most of the world’s problems”.
She told AFP that she would urge member states to “double their efforts” given the declining use of French in international organizations.
Mushikiwabo noted that promoting “peace, democracy and human rights” is also part of the mission of the International Organization of Francophonie.
However, Senegalese civil society leader Alioune Taine said the group had “appeared completely helpless in the face of rigged elections, third party mandates (African leaders) and military coups” in Mali, Guinea, Chad and Burkina Faso.
Summit coordinator Mohamed Trabelsi told AFP the meeting was “a recognition of Tunisia’s role in the francophone space and its regional and international diplomacy”.
It is also an opportunity, said Trabelsi, “to strengthen economic cooperation”.
But an official from Canada, a heavyweight in the International Organization of Francophonie, said Ottawa wanted more than its “concerns” about “democratic participation” following Saied’s rise to power in the only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings repeat ten years ago.
Tunisia is facing a deep economic crisis that has resulted in more and more people trying to get to Europe.
To draw delegates’ attention to the issue, hundreds of protesters on Friday tried to draw attention to the disappearance of 18 Tunisians on a boat that set sail in September. However, the police prevented them from reaching Djerba.
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