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France's Macron pledges support for Tunisia on maiden state visit

© Eric Feferberg, AFP | Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi (right) hosts French President Emmanuel Macron at the Presidential Palace in Carthage on January 31, 2018.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2018-01-31

President Emmanuel Macron said France would step up its support for Tunisia's fledgling democracy as he began a state visit to the North African country on Wednesday, two weeks after it was rocked by protests.

The French president, who has made numerous trips to Africa, is in Tunisia for two days to further boost the close partnership between France and its former colony, which is struggling economically while contending with Islamic extremists.

"We are at an important moment in the life of Tunisia," Macron said at a press conference with his counterpart Beji Caid Essebsi.

"We want to accompany you," he said. "We want to allow the youth of Tunisia to succeed."

'The success of Tunisia [...] is also our battle'

Tunisians ousted longtime dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 in protests that sparked the Arab Spring uprisings across the region.

Despite a relatively smooth democratic transition, unemployment and corruption remain rife seven years on and new austerity measures adopted at the start of this year sparked a wave of violent protests.

Successive governments have struggled to revitalise Tunisia's economy since 2011, especially after deadly jihadist attacks in 2015 dealt a major blow to the key tourism sector.

'Invest massively'

France has said it wants to help Tunisia tackle joblessness, which remains above 15 percent overall and over 30 percent among the young, despite a slight uptick in economic growth last year.

Paris has also called on French firms to "invest massively" in Tunisia.

Video: Hopes and hurdles for French entrepreneurs in Tunisia

On Wednesday, Macron signed a series of accords pledging funds aimed at boosting local businesses and helping reform the economy.

The French president also signed a deal on closer counter-terrorism cooperation and is due to visit the National Bardo Museum, the site of a deadly attack by the Islamic State group in 2015.

His office said that Macron, traveling with a delegation of business leaders and cultural figures, will give a major speech Thursday before parliament to affirm French support for Tunisia's democratic transition as a model of hope for the Arab-Muslim world.

Watch FRANCE 24's interview with Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2018-01-31

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