UK wishes to expand partnership with Tunisia

The British ambassador to Tunisia, Hamish Cowell, said that he wishes to expand British-Tunisian ties to help address the latter’s pressing issues.

al-monitor A Tunisian woman, seen through a broken window, walks beside a swimming pool in the Mediterranean resort of Hammamet, Jan. 16, 2011. Photo by REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra.

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tunisia, foreign policy, foreign aid, development, business, britain

Jun 10, 2014

The British ambassador to Tunisia, Hamish Cowell, revealed that Tunisian-British relations were expanding in security and defense, and said, “Britain is working to help Tunisia address the economic and security challenges that followed the revolution.”

In an interview that will be posted on the website of the British Foreign Ministry in Arabic next week, Cowell said, “Tunisian-British relations have changed in the same way that Tunisia changed after the revolution. … The number of British diplomats in the embassy almost tripled since 2011. And bilateral cooperation expanded through our 'Arab partnership' program in the areas of defense and security, [two areas] that saw no cooperation for a long time. The number of British visitors to Tunisia has reached a new record last year with more than 400,000 visitors.”

Regarding the challenges facing the democratic transformation in Tunisia, Cowell said, “Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa described Tunisia as a nascent democracy. I think this term precisely highlights the challenges and opportunities of the transition, such as starting with great potential and the need to maintain democracy and attract investments.”

He said, “Britain, like other friends of Tunisia, is working closely with Tunisia to help address the security and economic challenges that followed the revolution. Britain will continue to support Tunisia to reach the end of the transitional phase by [its] holding elections at the end of the year.

“After the revolution, the British established an 'Arab partnership' program to fund bilateral projects worth more than 8 million pounds [$13.4 million] in the areas of electoral processes, political participation, fighting corruption, freedom of expression and the formation of journalists, investment and employment.” He said Britain has given “bilateral subsidies more than twice through programs with multilateral institutions such as the African Development Bank, the Deauville Fund for Democratic Transition and the World Bank. Britain is one of the most important donors and supporters of Tunisia through its role in the European Union, the Group of Eight, the IMF and other multilateral institutions.”

“I would like to develop the work of the British Cultural Center, which supports democratic transition, by enhancing the possibility of employing young people and supporting civil society,” he said.

Cowell also revealed that the visit by the Lord Mayor of the City of London to Tunisia in June aims to provide necessary legal and financial expertise: “The visit will help develop partnerships between Tunisian and British institutions to develop capabilities and cooperation in the professional services sector. … A memorandum of understanding will be signed between the British Venture Capital Association and the Tunisian League for Investment to give the partnership an official status.”

Cowell said, “Britain is not considered a traditional partner to Tunisia in some sectors, but it has a very close relationship with Tunisia in some sectors. [Britain] is Tunisia’s main partner in the field of energy, and we have companies that play a crucial role in supplying Tunisia’s energy needs. We want to encourage more investment in the energy sector to address the problem of deficit production in this area and to help create jobs. For this reason we believe that the existing partnership between us has significant value and size. But we also look forward to expanding our business in other areas.”

He said, “With the progress of the transition phase, Tunisia has real potential to establish itself as a hub for neighboring countries and the region as a whole. And I would like to see British companies play a role in that.”

Cowell cited “the existence of great opportunities that Britain can provide Tunisia in the financial and legal sectors, in which Britain is considered a leader. This experience is being provided to Tunisia, and this will in turn benefit all other commercial sectors. The health and technical sectors are no less important. As for our strategy, it is based on providing the greatest benefit to Tunisia and achieving the best improvements.”

With regard to the increasing demand for learning English in Tunisia, Cowell said, “The British Cultural Center works with government ministries and other partners to enhance the quality of teaching and learning, and this includes supporting teachers, trainers and students at all education levels while ensuring that both the teacher and the student in the country benefit. … The embassy recently organized with the British Cultural Center an event called ‘English Week,’ which included a series of activities in all parts of Tunisia to reinforce the importance of English as a tool for recruitment, and a variety of programs that exist today, especially digital, to anyone who wishes to access English learning programs. This event clearly showed how many are interested in learning English.”

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