News / Middle East

Tunisian President in France to Repair Ties

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki
Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki
Lisa Bryant
PARIS — Tunisia's President Moncef Marzouki is in France, in a new drive to repair relations with its former colonial power. Marzouki also will be seeking closer business ties that are key to turning around his country's ailing economy.

Tunisians have not forgotten France's longtime support for the regime of former dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Or that former French foreign minister Michele Aliot-Marie last year offered help to Tunisian police cracking down on pro-democracy demonstrators.

But experts like Steven Ekovich, political science professor at the American University of Paris, say the three-day visit of Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki marks a new page in Tunisian-French relations.

"He's here to… reignite positive relations," said Ekovich. "Tunisia needs good relations with France - it's unavoidable. The primary European partner of Tunisia is France. Tunisia can't do without France. Good relations are absolutely necessary."

This is not the first high-level visit here since Tunisia's 2011 revolution. The country's interim prime minister attended last year's G8 meeting in Normandy to seek international assistance. Prime Minister Hamadi Jabali, of the leading Islamist Ennahda party, has also visited.

But it helps that Marzouki will be starting over with a new French government. He holds talks with President Francois Hollande and other top officials - including the mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, who was born in Tunisia. Besides politics, economics are certain to be up for discussion as Tunisia continues to battle high unemployment and a sluggish economy.

France is a leading investor in the North African nation, with about 1,200 French companies doing business there. French tourists are also going back, but in fewer numbers than before the revolution.

"The tourists are a little skittish about the security situation," said Steven Ekovich. "And if there's a fear there might be some sort of extremist Islam of course, of course that's not going to help tourism. If French women feel they can't wear their bikinis on the beach, that will dampen tourism as well."

Marzouki was a leading dissident and human rights activist during the Ben Ali years. He has clashed with Prime Minister Jebali, most recently over the extradition of Libya's former prime minister, calling it "illegal."

In a recent interview with Radio France Internationale, Marzouki said that he and Jebali had decided to wipe the slate on the disagreement. He also wants to repatriate state funds that Tunisia says Ben Ali stashed abroad, including in Swiss bank accounts.

You May Like

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

Report: US to Sail Warships Near Disputed S. China Sea Islands

Move will signal nonrecognition of Chinese territorial claims over area, Financial Times reports, citing senior US official More

Study Describes Ancient Deltas, Lakes on Mars

Research builds on recent NASA announcement that water flows on red planet today More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: sam from: Accra
July 18, 2012 7:22 AM
France supported Ben Ali, while the US supported Mobutu and still supports the Ancien regime in Saudi Arabia. why are they condemning Russia for supporting Assad?

by: Nicole from: France
July 17, 2012 12:52 PM
as soon as you have done with him... send him back to Islamic Africa... NO MORE ISLAM IN EUROPE

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanoni
John Owens
October 08, 2015 7:32 PM
Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs