Skip to main content

European aid, pressure on Tunisia’s IMF deal unlikely to allay migration concerns

European leaders visited the North African country over the weekend, hoping to work with Kais Saied's populist government to reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund while reducing migration in the Mediterranean.
Kais Saeid, Ursula von der Leyen

Intervening in Tunisia’s International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout talks and pledging aid to the North African country will not reduce the steady flow of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea to seek refuge in Europe, experts have told Al-Monitor.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her Dutch counterpart, Mark Rutte, visited Tunisia over the weekend along with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, looking to make progress in unblocking IMF loans to the country. Talks between Tunis and the IMF have been stalled for months amid a financial crisis, with Tunisia’s populist President Kais Saied rejecting the economic reforms needed to enable the loans. The European Union has said that it would support Tunisia on the condition that the country finalizes the IMF bailout. 

It marks the second time Italy’s far-right leader has visited Tunisia in a week. Italy is the main country in Europe where immigrants arrive from the Mediterranean Sea on small boats from countries such as Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Libya. The Italian government has reported that as many as 400,000 people are forecasted to enter Italy from North Africa in 2023. There has been a surge in the number of people making the perilous journey this year, particularly from Tunisia. 

On the weekend visit, the main interest of European countries was to improve conditions in Tunisia, which they hope will stem the sharp rise in the number of migrants arriving in Europe. The EU is considering providing more than €1 billion ($1.7 billion) in aid to Tunisia to rescue the country’s finances and help it deal with the migration crisis, von der Leyen said during the Sunday visit. Von der Leyen said that the funds could be ready “as soon as the necessary agreement is found,” without giving a precise timeline as to when they will be available. 

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.