A French far-right MP has sparked a wave of controversy in Tunisia after calling on the European Union (EU) to support President Kais Saied against Islamists, as some urge him to take care of his own country’s affairs and not to interfere with Tunisia.
During a session of the European Parliament on Thursday, Thierry Mariani, an MP from the National Rally party headed by Marine Le Pen, criticised the EU’s handling of the Tunisian file since President Kais Saied took power by trying to restore the Islamists to power. Mariani noted that Europe did not criticise Tunisia during the rule of the Ennahda Movement and even provided financial support to the Islamist government.
“Instead of helping Tunisia rehabilitate its economy, the EU continues to teach this Maghreb country lessons. It is located in a complex neighbourhood whose population lives under the pressure of inflation,” he added.
Mariani considered that: “The Western intervention in the domestic affairs of the Maghreb countries since 2011 has been a failure, and it is time to cooperate with these countries for the sake of the European interest in terms of immigration and security.”
“We need strong Maghreb countries capable of providing good living conditions for their citizens and confronting the Islamists for the common interest of all the countries of the Mediterranean basin,” asserted Mariani.
Mariani’s statements sparked controversy in Tunisia, where lawyer and activist Sunnia Dahmani criticised Mariani for interfering in Tunisian affairs, adding: “While the EU also supported the Islamists and gave them a blank check, today they want to re-align themselves with President Kais Saied and want to give him a blank check to do what he likes.”
“Ultimately, we are the ones who defend democracy and state institutions, not the French extreme right,” she added: “In fact, their only concern is to stop covert immigration.”
An activist named Fathi commented: “The extreme right does not care about democracy in Tunisia. All it cares about is a dictator who stops immigration and, if possible, opposes Islam, it does not care about the tragedies of Tunisians.”
Another activist called Reda added: “The speech of the EU President is no less racist (concerning the controversial statement of the EU’s foreign policy coordinator, Josep Borrell), in addition to the colonial discourse that forces the Tunisian state to accept any commodity that comes from them. His speech is full of blatant interference in our internal affairs.”
The EU had called on Tunisia to implement measures relating to “restricting” the import of a number of European and foreign products in general (in an attempt to stop draining foreign exchange reserves). The EU considers that this measure could limit Tunisia’s efforts to reform, open up and attract foreign investors.