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Tunisian PM: ‘We are prepared for democracy’

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2011-04-20

FRANCE 24 sat down with Prime Minister Beji Caid Sebsi for an exclusive interview about the state of Tunisia’s economy, its democratic aspirations, and its relations with France. Here are some highlights.

Tunisia's new prime minister, 84-year-old Beji Caid Sebsi, has a history of pro-democracy advocacy in Tunisia, and has held several ministerial posts in the past -- most notably under President Habib Bourguiba, who led Tunisia to independence from France in 1956.

His appointment on February 27 followed the resignation of Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, who was forced out of office amid calls for a purge of ministers linked with ousted President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

Here are some highlights from FRANCE 24’s exclusive interview.

On Tunisia’s security challenges

“Tunisia is going through an exceptional period after this revolution. The situation is better, but that does not mean we’ve reached our goals. The problem is security. It was our priority to re-establish order in the country, and now things are going well. There are still residual situations from the start of the revolution, but all that is subsiding. I think that since my arrival, trust is starting to come back. Trust is fragile and needs to be maintained.

Currently, order is in large part restored. The tourism problem is psychological. People think that it’s not good to go to a country after a revolution. I think they are mistaken, because the current situation creates no risk and no danger for tourists.”

On democracy

“The biggest expectation for a country emerging from a revolution is to initiate a democratic process. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible. If there’s a chance for democracy to be established in a 'third world' country, it’s indeed in Tunisia. We have all the ingredients in place. We are an informed people, we have worked hard to combat ignorance and illiteracy. It’s true that there are a lot of Tunisians with university degrees who are currently unemployed. But we also have a middle class and freedom for women; we’re better prepared for democracy than others.”

On foreign aid

“It’s not help we are asking for. We have already begun to make efforts ourselves. We will present a strong plan to help reduce unemployment in the region where there were the incidents that set off the revolution. But for the development of Tunisia, we need [foreign] investments.”

On relations with France

[Relations between Tunisia and France, closely linked by history trade, hit a rough patch in January when then-Foreign Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie suggested that French police forces could help their Tunisian counterparts control protesters. France was criticised for appearing to side with a repressive government against a mass movement calling for regime change.]

“You cannot govern with emotion. There are always more moments in relationships between countries that are more difficult than others. I’m looking at the future. What happened before I arrived in my position does not concern me.”

Date created : 2011-04-19


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