EU diplomacy ‘surprised’ by Tunisia's banning entry of EU lawmakers

EU diplomacy ‘surprised’ by Tunisia's banning entry of EU lawmakers

Move came after criticism on EU-Tunisia migration deal, democratic backsliding in country

By Agnes Szucs

BRUSSELS (AA) - The EU was “surprised” by Tunisia's decision banning entry of five lawmakers, an official said on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters at the European Commission’s daily news briefing, spokesperson for foreign affairs Nabila Massrali said the EU’s diplomatic representation in Tunis received “an official communication” on Wednesday that the visit of the European Parliament’s delegations “will not be allowed.”

“This came as a surprise to us after the many visits of the last few months, which has enabled us to establish a frank and open dialogue between all the Europeans and Tunisian institutions,” Massrali explained.

She said the EU’s ambassador to Tunisia “immediately expressed our regret at this decision.”

“The EU and Tunisia are bound by a strong and strategic partnership, and the continuation of an open dialogue is all the more important at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges,” Massrali added.

Tunisian authorities on Wednesday denied the entry of five members of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee.

The government did not explain why they banned the visit that had been already planned.

The move came after EU lawmakers, at a plenary debate on Tuesday, heavily criticized Tunisia’s democratic backsliding and a controversial deal that the European Commission struck with Tunisia on migration in July.

Brokered by EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, Italian premier Giorgia Meloni and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the deal includes €105 million ($113 million) support for Tunisian authorities for border management and fight against people smuggling networks.

Tunisia’s President Kais Saied dissolved the country’s parliament in March 2022, eight months after suspending it. He also sacked the government and gave himself powers to rule and legislate by decree, and seized control over the judiciary.

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