• France's news in English

Hollande backs Tunisia amid Egypt turmoil

AFP · 6 Jul 2013, 07:10

Published: 06 Jul 2013 07:10 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

In a clear effort to re-set relations between France and Tunisia, damaged by the close ties that his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy fostered with ousted strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Hollande emphasised his support for Tunisia's coalition government headed by Islamist party Ennahda.

He insisted that "Islam and democracy (were) compatible" while acknowledging, in a speech to the National Assembly, that the democratic transition was not easy.

He paid homage to anti-Islamist opposition leader Chokri Belaid, who was gunned down outside his home in February, calling him "a man of conviction, killed because of his ideas".

Since the uprising that toppled Ben Ali and launched the Arab Spring, Tunisia has been rocked by waves of violence linked to radical Islamists, and its political stability has been sorely challenged, notably during the crisis sparked by Belaid's assassination, which led to then prime minister Hamadi Jebali's resignation.

On his arrival Thursday, a day after the Egyptian army ousted the country's democratically-elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, the French president described Tunisia an "example" to other Arab nations and said it had an obligation to succeed.

"What is clear is that for you there is also an obligation to succeed because you are an example, a reference for many other Arabs," Hollande said at a joint press conference with his Tunisian counterpart Moncef Marzouki.

Marzouki ruled out the risk of the elected authorities being deposed in the birthplace of the Arab Spring, but he warned of a need to "pay attention" to popular demands.

Analysts say the new Islamist-led governments must "redouble their efforts" to overcome mistrust, adapt to the practicalities of power and convince people that they are able to meet their expectations.

In a speech to parliament on Friday, Hollande said he wished to "learn the lessons of the past" and recognised the "wounds" in the French-Tunisian relationship dating, notably, to the time of the 2011 revolution.

Ministers in Sarkozy's administration sparked anger in Tunisia by failing to immediately back the mass uprising against Ben Ali's rule, which touched off the Arab Spring.

Just days before Ben Ali fled, then foreign minister Michele Alliot-Marie shocked Tunisian democrats by suggesting France could help train Tunisia's hated security forces to help them better control the protests.

The visiting French president also addressed outstanding issues relating to the colonial past, announcing a symbolic opening of French archives on the assassination of nationalist leader Farhat Hached, whose tomb he visited.

"To rebuild our relationship we must first confront the truth," he said.

Story continues below…

Hached's death in 1952, four years before Tunisia's independence, is blamed on a paramilitary organisation active under the French protectorate.

With its historical ties and investments, France remains Tunisia's first economic and trade partner.

Hollande told business leaders from both countries that by supporting the economy they were assisting the democratic transition in Tunisia, which has been plagued by social unrest linked to unemployment and poor living conditions, and which has also put pressure on the key tourism sector.

"The French development agency will invest particularly in the rehabilitation of poor neighbourhoods, the supply of drinking water, professional training, improving rail links and agricultural development," he said.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France given wake up call as it bids for Brexit business
The business district 'La Defense' in Paris. Photo: AFP

France clearly has some work to do if it really wants to pinch business from the UK post-Brexit.

Mouth fun? French words you just can't translate literally
Do you know the French word for throat-support? Photo: AFP

Word of warning: Don't translate French literally.

How France plans to help its stressed-out police force
Yellow smoke rises around French police officers in Paris holding a banner reading "Solidarity with our colleagues, police angry". All photos: AFP

Could these measures stop the cops from protesting?

'3,000 migrants dispersed' after 'Jungle' clearance
Photo: AFP

While thousands of migrants have been bussed out around France, new ones are arriving all the time and thousands of others have simply been dispersed aid agencies say.

Fifteen of the most bizarre laws in France
Photo: Matthew Powell/Flickr

A must read for anyone who wants to stay on the right side of the law in France.

Medieval town in south of France upholds ban on UFOs
The town of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Photo: Aa77zz/Flickr

Aliens take note.

American tourist dies at French Riviera sex club
The Riviera resort of Cannes. Photo: AFP

American tourist reportedly fell five floors after being pushed outside the underground sex club in Cannes.

Paris: 'Flying' water taxis to be tested on River Seine
Photo: SeaBubbles

An in Seine idea surely? But tests will go ahead.

France joins fight for rich pickings from post-Brexit UK
Photo: AFP/DcnH/Flickr

France tries to woo EU's bank regulator and other agencies.

How speaking French can really mess up your English
Photo: CollegeDegree360/Flickr

So you've mastered French, but now it's time to learn English all over again.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available