ROME – Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said on Thursday that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) should accept a first, unconditional bailout package for Tunisia, with further payments contingent on reforms.
Tunisia signed an agreement in principle with the IMF in October to shore up its collapsing economy, but the bailout still needs to be approved by the IMF board, which is pressing for economic reforms.
“Our proposal is to begin financing Tunisia through the Monetary Fund and then deliver a second tranche as the reforms progress,” Tajani said following a meeting with his Tunisian counterpart, Nabil Ammar.
“But not entirely dependent on… the completion of the reform process.” Begin financing and support reforms,” he told reporters.
Ammar “assured me that the reforms are proceeding,” Tajani stated.
Tunisia is deeply in debt, with significant inflation and unemployment.
In recent days, EU leaders, including Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, have warned of the dangers of an economic collapse, which might lead to an increase in the number of people crossing the Mediterranean.
Migrants from all across Africa and Tunisia use Tunisia’s coastline, which is less than 150 kilometers (90 miles) from the Italian island of Lampedusa, as a jumping off point for attempts to reach Europe.
“Skepticism or negative messages about Tunisia… do not help the Tunisian economy and exacerbate all problems, including illegal migration,” Ammar said in a joint press statement on Thursday.
“Helping the Tunisian economy also means fighting migration,” he explained.
Tunisian President Kais Saied has amassed vast powers since deposing the government in July 2021, later dismissing parliament and enacting a new constitution to replace the one ratified in 2014, when Tunisia was at the vanguard of the Arab Spring political upheavals.