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

Video Obama: Action on Climate Change 'Economic, Security Imperative'

President spoke to reporters on sidelines of UN Climate Summit outside Paris, where leaders are working to agree on binding measures

IMF Bets on China’s Resolve to Reform

IMF announcement already raising questions about just how much Beijing is committed to such reforms

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

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.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs