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Brussels, 30 March 2011

Joint statement by Stefan Füle, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy and Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, on their trip to Tunisia

Commissioners Cecilia Malmström and Stefan Füle will visit Tunisia on the 30th and 31st of March. Before their departure they said: "We would like to commend the Tunisian people for the courageous and peaceful transition they initiated through the revolution.  This was an historic event not only for Tunisia but for the wider region. The recent revolution brought a lot of hope to the people, and today we wish to assure our Tunisian partners of European support in their path towards an open and democratic society."

Stefan Füle, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy emphasised that "Tunisia has many strengths. The high level of education of its people and its efficient administrative structures are particularly important assets. They will help to ensure the successful transition to a state based on democratic principles, the rule of law and respect for human rights.

I am coming to talk business and how we can concretely support Tunisia. We are aware that the country's democratisation will require ambitious reforms in difficult areas such as ensuring the independence of the judiciary, fighting against corruption or developing the country's least advanced regions. The EU is ready to support Tunisia on each of these fronts. I will discuss with our partners how their plans for reforms are taking shape and what the EU can do to assist its Tunisian partner."

Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs stressed that "this visit is an immediate follow-up to the request by the European Council to explore the possibility of enhancing people-to-people contacts and of working together with the countries of the Southern Neighbourhood region to better manage migration and mobility. We will assure Tunisia that the EU will continue its support by providing assistance to those who fled the fighting in Libya. I will visit a refugee camp at Ras Jdir and meet with humanitarian workers to better assess the situation on the ground.

At the same time, thousands of Tunisians have departed towards the EU. Whilst the EU will live up to its responsibilities to provide international protection to those who need it, we also need to ensure that those who are not in need of such protection and who are not allowed to stay in the EU are returned in safely and with dignity in accordance with EU regulations and international law. I will discuss with the Tunisian government how we could increase cooperation as regards irregular migration and the return of irregular migrants. As expressed in the communication of 8 March on 'a partnership for democracy and shared prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean', the Commission remains committed to strengthening its dialogue and cooperation with the countries and the peoples of the Southern Mediterranean."

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