Brussels, 13 December 2012
The European Union is increasing its support to Tunisia’s disadvantaged neighbourhoods
The European Union (EU) has approved a financial assistance programme for Tunisia which aims to rehabilitate 119 poorer neighbourhoods and improve the living conditions of hundreds of thousands of people in those neighbourhoods.
Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, explained: ‘During the Tunisian uprising, the marginalised populations demanded a life of greater dignity, decent jobs and more inclusive economic and social development. The European Union continues to make a tangible contribution to achieving these objectives and is actively tackling the practical challenges facing the population. Through our new programmes, we will improve the living conditions of thousands of people in many poorer neighbourhoods’.
The 2011 uprising brought to light the very large social and economic differences between Tunisia’s interior and its coastal regions. Nationally the rate of poverty was close to 15.5% in 2011 but it can be much higher in the poorest inland regions. These regions also suffer from much greater unemployment than the national average (17.6% in May 2012), peaking at 26.1% in the South East and 25.3% in the South West.
Faced with marginalisation and poverty, entire populations move from the country's interior to settle around the large towns in the hope of finding a better life; they particularly hope to find work. Several hundreds of poorer neighbourhoods have sprung up spontaneously, in a random and informal manner, around the large towns and cities. This phenomenon has been taking place for several years now and is particularly acute around the large coastal towns (such as Greater Tunis, Bizerte, Nabeul and Sfax). Typically, these neighbourhoods suffer from disorganised urbanisation and chaotic living conditions which do not meet basic hygiene standards.
The €33 million programme will be co-funded with the Agence Française de Développement and the European Investment Bank. As well as setting up a road network in selected poorer neighbourhoods, this programme will also provide for the creation of socio-cultural and sports centres in over 50 of these neighbourhoods to benefit young people. Areas which could be used for revenue-generating economic activities will also be set up. Technical assistance will also be provided to the Ministry of Equipment and Habitat and the Urban Rehabilitation and Renovation Agency in order to help implement an urban policy and improve rehabilitation efforts in the poorer neighbourhoods.
The new programme rounds out other action supported by the European Union in 2012, such as improving access to basic healthcare services in disadvantaged regions (€12 million), developing civil society in Tunisia (€7 million), reforming the justice sector (€25 million), supporting the Tunisian economy’s recovery (€68 million) and a second transition process support programme (€15 million).
Moreover, as part of the renewed European Neighbourhood Policy, the programme places great emphasis on civil society organisations, which will be able to benefit from it directly to help promote local development dynamics.
This measure is financed by the SPRING (Support for Partnership, Reforms and Inclusive Growth) programme, which the EU launched following the 2011 Arab uprising.
There has been an association agreement between Tunisia and the EU since 1998; at the Association Council on 19 November, the EU and Tunisia agreed a new Action Plan (2013-2017) for a privileged partnership. These agreements form the legal framework that governs relations between the EU and its partners in policy, economic and trade, social and cultural matters. Their main objective is to strengthen cooperation between Tunisia and the EU and to promote economic, social and institutional convergence.
For more information
Website of EuropeAid – Development and Cooperation Directorate-General:
European Neighbourhood Policy:
Anca Paduraru (+32 2 296 64 30)
Peter Stano (+32 2 295 74 84)