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Brussels, 29 September 2011

Comments by the HR/VP Catherine Ashton following the EU/Tunisia Task Force

Mister Prime Minister, it is a great honour to be in Tunisia today

I'm pleased to say that the first meeting of the EU/Tunisia Task Force was a great success.

Tunisia is making history.

In just over three weeks, you will be holding the first fully democratic elections in the region since the start of the Arab Spring.

A new Tunisia is emerging: open, dynamic, prosperous, and democratic. It is an example for the entire region.

Yet I know that Tunisians want even faster changes.

The EU is committed to doing all it can to help.

The Task Force will allow us to improve the coordination of European and international support so that we can deliver faster and more effective assistance.

Progress in the short-term is key, promoting jobs and growth through economic development.

Tunisia has lots of potential, skilled people and great opportunities. But it's important that investment returns and grows.

I'm pleased to tell you that EU financial support to Tunisia should approach 4 billion euros over the 2011-2013 period, including contributions from the EU, its Member States and the European Investment Bank.

Tomorrow, we will begin formal negotiations between Tunisia and the EU to establish a new 'Privileged Partnership' covering all areas of mutual interest.

The EU will establish an asset recovery support team with experts in Tunis and Brussels to facilitate information sharing with Member States and the Tunisian Government.

This is about recovering what is yours and reinvesting it for your future.

We have agreed today to restart negotiations to liberalise trade in agriculture and to launch a Deep and Comprehensive FTA, once the EU Council agrees the mandate.

And we will start discussions on an Air Services Agreement to boost travel, a vital sector for the Tunisian economy.

We are also looking to improve opportunities for people to work, study and travel in the EU, and will begin talks on Mobility Partnerships with Tunisia, the first in the Southern Mediterranean.

And we are launching a 22 million euro civil society initiative for the European Neighbourhood.

Finally, Mr Prime Minister, I would like to pay tribute to you and your ministers and to wish you and the people of Tunisia well for the elections.

It is your country and it is your future.

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