Foreign Minister Gentiloni urges EU to invest in Tunisia

(AGI) Tunis, March 24 - Italian Foreign Affairs Minister PaoloGentiloni, on a brief mission to Tunisia, said Italy will urgethe European Union to draft an investment plan for Tunisia inorder to support the country in coping with the economicinstability which fuels the jihadist fundamentalist movement.The minister went to Tunis less than a week after the massacrethat took place at the Bardo Museum. The head of Italiandiplomacy met with the President of the Tunisian Republic, BejiCaid Essebsi, the Tunisian Foreign Minister, Taieb Baccouche,and the head of the moderate Islamist Party Ennahda, Rachid

(AGI) Tunis, March 24 - Italian Foreign Affairs Minister PaoloGentiloni, on a brief mission to Tunisia, said Italy will urgethe European Union to draft an investment plan for Tunisia inorder to support the country in coping with the economicinstability which fuels the jihadist fundamentalist movement.The minister went to Tunis less than a week after the massacrethat took place at the Bardo Museum. The head of Italiandiplomacy met with the President of the Tunisian Republic, BejiCaid Essebsi, the Tunisian Foreign Minister, Taieb Baccouche,and the head of the moderate Islamist Party Ennahda, RachidGannouchi. He clearly told his interlocutors that "the Tunisianconstitutional experiment is progressive and must not beabandoned." The Tunisian diplomacy is young and was set forthby the only Arab Spring movement which has proved to besuccessful. Tunisia is facing the jihadist threat a shortdistance from the Mediterranean coast of Italy and France.Minister Gentiloni will work together with the Frenchgovernment because projects such as Elmed, the 100-kilometreunderwater pipeline between Tunisia and Italy, which is run byTerna and the Tunisian energy firm Sheg, are also supported bythe Juncker plan. Further support should come from thecross-border cooperation funds to be utilized by the Italianregional government and Tunisian companies. The Italiangovernment has already begun the process by canceling part ofTunisia's debt, amounting to 25 million euro. Tunisia, struckat its heart by the jihadist attack, "is not only asking foreconomic support but also cooperation in terms of security andthe fight against terrorism. One of the major concerns for bothcountries is Libya," with whom Tunisia shares a long andpermeable border. Italy is already providing technical supportfor border control by installing a nighttime vision system.Gentiloni believes much more could be done. The Tunisiandefense minister will come to Rome in April to complete theagreement with his Italian counterpart Roberta Pinotti. Withregards to clandestine migration, the "crisis experienced someyears ago, when in a few weeks time thousands of illegalmigrants landed on the Italian coast, has been solved," assuredthe minister, adding that in 2015 only 81 illegal Tunisianmigrants hit the Italian coast. The minister remained in Tunisonly a few hours but asked to see the two Italian women whowere wounded during last Wednesday's attack and are still inthe hospital. Lorena Boni, a 57-year-old woman fromCastelfranco Emilia, might be discharged to return to Italy inthe next 48 hours, where she will be hospitalised in Modena.Anna Abagnale, according to an official of the Turin municipaloffices, will return to Italy as soon as the Tunisian doctorsrefer her to Turin's Le Molinette Hospital and give her theclearance to travel. On Tuesday, Tunis will reopen the BardoMuseum halls which are home to an extraordinary collection ofRoman mosaics. Gentiloni went to see the halls attacked by thejihadists, where besides having cleared traces of blood fromthe floors, bullet shots can still be seen on the walls andfragments of glass can be seen in the cupboards. "But democracyand culture are stronger than terrorism," said the minister. OnTuesday morning, thousands of Tunisian citizens stood outsidethe Bey Palace, next to the Parliament building, for an eventwhich will be crucial for the recovery of tourism, a primemover of the country's economy. On Sunday, another event toreach out to the Western world will take place to stand next tothe victims of the attack and fight against terrorism. MinisterGentiloni said that Italy will be in the front line "with adelegation of MPs that will be arriving on Saturday, and wewill be represented by top institutional dignitaries." . .