Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Tunisia

Delivered in Plenary - 29th September 2005

Mr President

Tunisia is an EU-Euromed Association partner country, which is almost unique in the Islamic world by its full commitment to building a modern secular society. This is to the point that it actually forbids polygamy; it bans the hijab in public places and has an established and protected Jewish community.

Tunisia has in recent years faced a hostile, fundamentalist, Islamic opposition inspired by Salafist and Wahhabi teachings and committed to the violent overthrow of its government. This state of affairs explains in part why the government of President Ben Ali has had to impose a rather tough regime, which falls well short of the standards we would enjoy in the EU. I am convinced, however, that Tunisia is now genuinely committed to long-term reform and to promoting genuine human rights, good governance and secular democracy.

I commend this resolution, which is balanced and constructive, and I will be supporting Tunisia in the process. We in the European Parliament and I in particular, as the rapporteur for the European Neighbourhood Policy will all be closely monitoring this process.