memorandum by Ms Brasseur, rapporteur
1 On 27 January 2011, two weeks after the Jasmine Revolution
which put an end to the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia and probably opened
a new chapter in history now known as “the Arab Spring”, the Parliamentary Assembly
held an emergency debate on the situation in Tunisia.
In Resolution 1791
, adopted on that occasion, it paid tribute to
the courage and determination of the Tunisian people who had clearly
shown the will to put an end to authoritarian rule and to transform
Tunisia into a free, open and democratic country.
3 The Assembly welcomed the first steps taken by the provisional
authorities with a view to liberalising the political life of the
country, and called on them to embark on far-reaching political
reforms in order to respond to the aspirations of the Tunisian people.
4 It resolved to follow political developments in Tunisia closely,
strengthen its dialogue with the new institutions following the
forthcoming elections and find appropriate ways to assist it in
its progression towards democracy.
5 The aim of this report is therefore to take stock of the political
developments in Tunisia in the months that followed the Jasmine
Revolution and examine how the emerging Tunisian democracy can benefit
from the Council of Europe’s experience of democratic transition.
6 I wish to emphasise that there is no question of giving the
Tunisians “lessons in democracy” or of imposing “Council of Europe
solutions”. It is entirely understandable that the Tunisians, for
too long deprived of their political sovereignty, should be determined
to build a Tunisian democracy, based on universal values certainly,
but tailor-made to respond to the country’s specific needs and conditions.
7 Nevertheless, during the democratic transition, Tunisia will
certainly have to confront challenges and solve problems that other
countries in democratic transition have experienced. The Council
of Europe’s experience in this field, which contributed to the establishment
of democracy in the countries of Europe, may be of great practical
use to them.
8 While a revolution may take place in one day, a great deal
more time is needed in order for it to bring the expected results.
Democratic transition is a process that may take several years.
The Assembly should therefore continue to follow political developments
in Tunisia and strengthen dialogue with the main political forces
and the civil society of this emerging democracy.
9 In the framework of the preparation of this report, the Political
Affairs Committee organised a hearing with representatives of Tunisian
civil society and the President of the Venice Commission. The hearing,
which took place in Paris on 9 March 2011, was very useful and enabled
the committee to hear the points of view of players directly involved
in developing the reform agenda in Tunisia, and gave the members
of the committee the opportunity to have a better understanding
of the nature of the political processes at work in the country. The
hearing also allowed a degree of mutual trust to be established,
which helped to create a constructive atmosphere and facilitated
subsequent contacts at the level both of the Assembly and of the
10 From 20 to 22 April 2011, as Chairperson of the Alliance of
Liberals and Democrats for Europe, I participated in a visit to
Tunisia by the Presidential Committee of the Assembly. In my capacity
as rapporteur, I had a series of additional contacts the day before.
Nonetheless, the programme of my visit focused on the city of Tunis
and gave me no opportunity to observe the situation in the interior
of the country. According to some reports, the situation there differs
considerably, both socio-economically and politically, from that
in the capital. I therefore consider it necessary for the Assembly’s
rapporteur to find out about the situation in the provinces. Contacts
should also be established with representatives of the judicial
authorities, the economic sector and the media.
11 I should also like to refer to my participation on 5 and 6
May 2011 in a conference entitled “Sofia Platform: Central and Eastern
Europe’s Experience and Change in North Africa and the Middle East”.
This meeting, which was jointly organised by the Bulgarian Ministry
of Foreign Affairs and the European Council on Foreign Relations,
a research foundation, brought together a large number of politicians,
researchers and representatives of civil society from Europe and
the countries of North Africa and the Middle East. The Secretary
General of the Council of Europe presented our Organisation’s vision
of the transformations currently taking place in that part of the
world. The Conference was an important opportunity to think together
about what Europe could offer our partners in the countries in transition
in order to contribute to the success of the reforms under way.
12 For several weeks after the revolution of 14 January
2011, the political situation in Tunisia remained very unstable.
The first provisional government, formed by the former Prime Minister
Ghannouchi on 17 January with the participation of representatives
of the “legal” opposition parties (the few political formations
that existed under the former regime) and independents, succeeded
in making a number of decisions tending towards democratisation.
But that government soon found itself under pressure from the demonstrators,
who demanded the resignation of ministers who had served under Ben
13 At the same time, the political forces close to the former
regime, from Ben Ali’s RCD party (Constitutional Democratic Rally)
and the security services, tried to stir up trouble in the country
in order to shift the transition process towards a new authoritarianism
under the guise of “controlled” political liberalisation.
14 Faced with these attempts, the elements in favour of democratic
change, particularly the unions and the active members of civil
society, continued to exert pressure on the provisional government
through demonstrations. They also began to form a National Council
to Defend the Revolution, which demanded the calling of a constituent
assembly and the dissolution of all institutions inherited from
the Ben Ali era, namely Parliament, the RCD and the political police.
15 At the beginning of February, the two Chambers of Parliament
passed a law allowing the Interim President, Fouad Mebazaa, to govern
by legislative decree. Parliament was then suspended and dissolved. Moreover,
on 19 February the Interim President issued a legislative decree
declaring an amnesty for all political prisoners.
16 Among the main decisions of the Ghannouchi government should
be noted the banning of the old ruling party, the RCD, as well as
the establishment of a commission to reform texts and institutions
which was supposed to prepare the democratic transformation of the
17 Mention should also be made of the dissolution of the Ministry
of Communication (which it would be more accurate to call the ministry
of propaganda and censorship) and a degree of liberalisation of
the media. Reform of the press still remains to be carried out,
however. Indeed, we have been informed that non-governmental organisations
(NGOs) encounter problems if they want to obtain radio frequencies.
18 On 27 February, the second government presided over by former
Prime Minister Ghannouchi was forced to resign as a result of pressure
from the protesters. The new transition government, headed by Mr
Beji Caid Essebsi, had no members who had been close to the Ben
Ali regime and positioned itself as a cabinet of technocrats whose
objective was to guarantee calm and stability during the transition
On 3 March, the Interim President set 24 July 2011 Note
the date for elections to a Constituent Assembly by direct universal
suffrage according to a new electoral code. A specific body called
the Higher Authority for Realisation of the Objectives of the Revolution,
Political Reform and Democratic Transition was set up to prepare
the elections to the Constituent Assembly. Mr Yadh Ben Achour, former
Dean of the Tunis Faculty of Legal, Political and Social Sciences,
who had resigned from the Constitutional Council in 1992 and was
an opponent of the Ben Ali regime, was appointed president of the
20 The Higher Authority, which is composed of 161 members, many
of whom are representatives of the political world and civil society,
as well as professional lawyers, prepared and submitted to the government
in mid-April draft laws on the organisation of the elections and
on the electoral commission.
21 In addition, two other independent commissions of inquiry
were set up in order to shed light on corruption, the misappropriation
of funds by the former regime and abuses committed by the security
forces during the events of December 2010-January 2011.
22 On 7 March 2011, the Minister for the Interior announced the
dissolution of the State Security Service and the political police.
23 There now seems to be relative, if fragile, political and
institutional stability in Tunisia, enabling the provisional authorities
to be fairly optimistic about the possibility of preparing the elections.
The authorities have, however, let it be known that they may be
postponed if all the conditions for a ballot that complies with democratic
standards are not met.
24 The fragile nature of the stability was demonstrated by the
events of 5 May, which were provoked by statements by the former
Tunisian Minister of the Interior, Farhat Rajhi, who announced a
“military coup d’Etat” was being prepared in the event of the Islamists’
winning the elections. The government condemned these statements,
calling them “an attack on public order”. The demonstrations that
followed this incident turned into a riot, with young Tunisians
demanding the resignation of the transitional government and “a
new revolution”. The police had to use teargas and then weapons
in order to quell the riot. Several shops and houses were looted.
On 7 May, the authorities introduced a curfew in Tunis. Some 600
people were arrested. The curfew was lifted on 18 May 2011.
3 Challenges of political
25 In the four months since the revolution, Tunisian
society has undergone a remarkable transformation. Tunisians are
proud of the democratic advances and political freedoms that they
26 Nevertheless, the victory of the revolution does not mean
the advent of democracy – far from it. There are huge challenges
to be met, if one takes into account the lack of democratic institutions,
structures and traditions in a country ruled for decades by an authoritarian
27 At present, the transition authorities are not at all representative
and are not based on any form of legitimacy except that resulting
from the revolution. Their first objective is therefore to organise
democratic, open, fair and transparent elections which enshrine
the democratic choices of the Tunisian people and give legitimacy
to the government that results from those elections. The government
of Mr Beji Caid Essebsi declared that it would not be involved in
organising the elections and that none of its members would stand
as a candidate for the Assembly.
28 The Higher Authority chaired by Mr Ben Achour has done a remarkable
job in preparing the legal framework for the elections to the Constituent
Assembly. It has drafted, adopted by vote on 11 April 2011 and transmitted
to the government two draft legislative decrees on the election
of the National Constituent Assembly and the election of the Independent
High Authority for Elections.
29 The draft electoral legislative decree seeks to guarantee
pluralistic, transparent, credible, democratic elections. The system
proposed is the single-round proportional ballot with closed lists,
by constituency, with distribution of the largest remainder.
30 The draft guarantees the right of every Tunisian, including
those living abroad, to participate in the elections with their
national identity card. The establishment of electoral registers
is to take place under the supervision of the Independent High Authority
for Elections; the Ministry of the Interior, which was in charge
of election administration under the former regime, is excluded
from electoral operations.
31 As regards the election campaign, the draft contains fundamental
principles guaranteeing the impartiality of the administration,
not using places of worship, and transparency of election campaign
32 Two provisions of the draft legislative decree are particularly
sensitive and have provoked much discussion in Tunisia: male-female
parity in electoral lists and the disqualification of former officials
of the former ruling party, the RCD.
33 With regard to parity, the draft requires electoral lists
to contain an equal number of male and female candidates listed
alternately (a “zebra list”). Any list that does not comply with
this requirement will be declared invalid.
34 This provision has given rise to much controversy. Some fear
that it will penalise new parties, which are not yet well organised
and do not have enough candidates, and favour parties which are
well-established throughout the country and which would try to improve
their results by getting female candidates with no experience elected.
35 The question of barring former RCD officials from standing
as candidates has caused even more debate, both on the principle
of depriving a category of persons of their right to be elected
without any form of legal procedure, and the extent of such a measure.
36 Nonetheless, the political argument, according to which the
officials of the former regime who bear responsibility for its misdeeds
should not be involved in drafting the new constitution, seems to
have prevailed. At the same time, this prohibition should name the
persons concerned, concern only elections to the Constituent Assembly
(and not subsequent elections) and be challengeable in court.
37 According to the estimates of our Tunisian interlocutors,
this prohibition would affect 2 000 to 2 500 people who occupied
posts of responsibility in the central organs of the RCD party (Political
Bureau and Central Committee), as well as in the territorial organisations
at governorate level.
38 The type of ballot proposed in the draft legislative decree
has also been criticised: according to some, it penalises small
parties and cannot therefore guarantee that the Constituent Assembly
– a chamber from which consensus should arise – is as representative
39 The second draft legislative decree concerns the Independent
High Authority for Elections, which is elected by the Higher Authority
and composed of 15 members: three judges, three lawyers, an accountant,
a journalist, two representatives of non-governmental organisations
(all pre-selected by the associations), as well as three academics,
a computer scientist and a representative of Tunisians abroad. On
9 May, 13 members were appointed, as the judges had not put up any
candidates. Of the 161 members of the Higher Authority, 126 took
part in the vote.
40 The mission of the Independent High Authority for Elections
is to prepare, manage and supervise the election operations as a
whole and to declare the preliminary results of the elections, before
challenges are heard by another authority, the “higher electoral
disputes authority”, which will be set up by legislative decree for
41 The elections were originally set for 24 July 2011. The Tunisian
authorities have emphasised the importance of keeping to that date,
first and foremost for reasons of credibility of the democratic
process, but also in order to avoid their being postponed to the
period after the month of Ramadan.
42 Nonetheless, with regard to the material organisation of the
elections, everything remains to be done: compiling the lists of
voters (electoral registers), defining the constituencies, training
the staff of local electoral commissions, etc. The plan is not to
use voter registration cards but instead to use identity cards in
order to be able to vote. At this stage, many voters do not have
such a document. After having noted that it was not possible to
ensure the best preparation of the elections, the Independent High
Authority for Elections, during its meeting of 22 May 2011, adopted
the proposal to postpone polling day to the 16 October 2011, but
the transitional government decided, at the Council of Ministers
held on 24 May 2011, to maintain the originally announced date of
24 July 2011 in order to keep the commitment taken in March.
The Tunisian political scene is now seething. Following the
liberalisation of procedures for forming parties, there are now
more than 60, and new ones are formed every week. Some of them existed
under the Ben Ali regime (the so-called “legal opposition” Note
) and are fairly well organised
and have quite clearly defined political positions.
44 Most of the new parties are little known to the general public.
Some of them can be termed “single-issue parties” on the basis of
the subjects they propose to develop and defend. Some of the parties
of this type will certainly find it difficult to become established
throughout the country and will have to try to forge alliances or risk
45 There have also been attempts by members of the former regime
to form political parties. There is a danger that these elements,
which are referred to as “shadowy forces”, will try to exploit the
deteriorating social and economic conditions to return to power.
46 Among the best organised parties, mention should be made of
the Islamist party Ennahda, which was legalised in early February
after years of prohibition and persecution. Although its emergence
worries some people, who see it as a threat to the principles of
a secular society, Ennahda has been trying to reassure them by opening
up dialogue with other political forces and taking part in the current
political and institutional process. The party is taking part in
the work of the Higher Authority along with a dozen other political formations.
Ennahda will without any doubt occupy a considerable place on the
emerging Tunisian political scene.
47 In the absence of established political players easily recognisable
by all, civil society and voluntary sector organisations, unions
and professional organisations now have a considerable role, benefiting
from being fairly well known and well reputed. As an example, at
least 15 such organisations now sit on the Higher Authority chaired
by Mr Ben Achour.
48 In view of the present state of political life in Tunisia,
which is characterised by a high degree of diversity and fluidity,
there is a risk that voters, faced with a multitude of parties or
alliances with vague political objectives and represented by little-known
candidates, will be confused and find it difficult to make informed choices.
49 This problem is compounded by Tunisian political players’
lack of practical experience of electoral campaigns. There can thus
be no certainty as to the success of the election operations, despite
the optimism and good will of the transition authorities.
50 While the election of the Constituent Assembly is the Tunisians’
absolute priority, there are questions as to what will happen after
51 On the one hand, the Interim President and the transitional
government in place have let it be known that they will hand over
power to the Constituent Assembly, which will embody the sovereign
choice of the people and have legitimacy. It is clear, however,
that it will not be easy for a newly formed elective body to take
on all the responsibilities of government immediately after the
election. There will probably have to be some continuity of the
executive power under the authority of the elected Assembly.
52 On the other hand, while the main task of the Constituent
Assembly will by definition be to prepare and adopt the new constitution,
its prerogatives will probably not be limited to the fundamental
law and will include some elements of legislative work.
53 Democratic transition in Tunisia will place the need for reform
in many areas on the agenda, including the organisation of the judicial
system and the police, taxation, etc. Questions concerning the constitutional
or legislative safeguarding of positive Tunisian achievements, including
the status of women and secularism, will also have to be settled.
54 Tunisia, which will have more time to put these various reforms
in place, could avoid many mistakes by taking inspiration from,
without necessarily copying, the experiences of the young (and not
so young) European democracies. The Council of Europe is a forum
particularly suited to such sharing and pooling of experiences of
4 Economic and social
55 The precarious economic and social situation, including
massive unemployment among young people with qualifications, was
one of the main causes of the popular movement that finally resulted
in the fall of the Ben Ali regime. The people, particularly the
young people who massively took part in the demonstrations against
the former regime, therefore have high expectations of seeing a
speedy and substantial improvement in their situation.
56 Unfortunately, the revolution has so far had disastrous consequences
for the country’s economy. The television pictures of a mass movement
facing violent repression have been seen worldwide and been a serious
blow to Tunisia’s image as a safe destination.
57 The first sector to suffer from this has been tourism, one
of the pillars of the Tunisian economy which employs over 11% of
the working population. At the climax of the revolution several
European countries evacuated their nationals from Tunisia and advised
people not to go there. Several months after the events of January
2011, the confidence of European holidaymakers has still not returned.
This is illustrated by the figures for non-resident entries, of
which there were 1 098 200 during the first quarter of 2010, compared
with 614 000 in the first three months of 2011, namely a 44% drop.
58 Similarly, the political instability and institutional uncertainty
that followed the revolution made foreign investors cautious, and
this has slowed down a number of investment projects.
59 The political freedom that has become a new reality in Tunisia
has enabled and even stimulated a considerable mobilisation of social
movements and action in pursuit of demands. There have been numerous strikes,
occupations of industrial premises and much blocking of businesses
and roads, resulting in significant economic losses.
60 The civil war and international military intervention in Tunisia’s
neighbour, Libya, is also having harmful effects on the Tunisian
economy and social situation. The authorities have to deal with
the mass influx of tens – or even hundreds – of thousands of Libyan
refugees, and the return of thousands of Tunisians who had been working
in Libya and had to abandon everything in order to flee the hostilities.
The conflict in Libya has also seriously affected the regions of
the centre and south of Tunisia where the local economy is very
dependent on trade with Libya.
61 According to Tunisian Central Bank estimates, in the first
quarter of 2011 industrial production fell by 13% and industrial
investment intentions by 36%. Unemployment, which was one of the
triggers of the social movement in December 2010, was estimated
at 500 000 in January, but may be over 700 000 by July.
62 The deterioration in the economic situation and the significant
increase in the unemployment rate are leading to fears of renewed
unrest which might disturb the fragile political stability the authorities
have achieved with such difficulty, distort the results of the elections
to the Constituent Assembly and weigh heavily on its work. In the
medium term, the poor economic and social situation may cause feelings
of frustration and disillusionment, weaken popular support for the
reforms, strengthen the position of populist and radical parties and
even the partisans of the former regime.
63 The transition authorities are aware of these dangers and
are working to relieve the crisis and reassure the population. They
also understand that political and social stability is essential
for restoring investor confidence and stimulating the economy. The
government has therefore put in place programmes to stimulate the
economy, create civil service jobs and assist young people with
qualifications who are unemployed, as well as programmes for regional
readjustment. It is planned to inject income into the economy in
order to stimulate consumption and foster investment in infrastructure.
The means at their disposal are very limited, however.
64 The Tunisian revolution therefore urgently requires real solidarity
and support from the international community. The main international
players (such as the European Union, the United States and more
recently France) have announced their intentions to provide support
but, according to our contacts in the transitional government, that
aid is taking time to materialise.
65 At the same time, the Tunisian authorities have made it very
clear that they do not want Tunisia to become an assisted economy.
Their priority is to restart the income- and job-generating sectors
of the Tunisian economy, revive tourism, restore foreign investor
confidence in order to activate the country’s significant investment
potential, and bring back to the country the money embezzled by
the former regime.
5 Problem of irregular
migration and Tunisia’s international image
66 It has to be observed that the Jasmine Revolution
and the image of a new Tunisia resolutely turned towards the future,
which won the admiration of international public opinion, was very
soon eclipsed by the events in Egypt and other Arab countries, including
more recently in Libya.
67 At the same time, Tunisia’s image is now associated in the
European media and the perception of political leaders with the
arrival of irregular Tunisian migrants in Europe via the Italian
island of Lampedusa.
68 It is estimated that some 25 000 young Tunisians have left
their country since January 2011 in the hope of joining their friends
and relatives in France and other European countries. Whatever the
reasons that lead these young people to seek their fortune in Europe
at a time when their country needs them in order to advance, this
is illegal immigration.
69 The phenomenon is probably caused not only by a relaxation
of control by the Tunisian authorities and a steep rise in the activities
of people smugglers, but also by the feeling of sudden freedom after
the fall of the former regime and the lack of immediate prospects
within the country.
70 In Europe, where questions connected with immigration are
at the heart of the political debate in many countries, the arrival
of thousands of Tunisians has caused tension between Italy and a
number of its partners, particularly France, which even stopped
trains running between Italy and France for a time. The European Union
is now considering reviewing the operation of the Schengen system.
Tunisian immigrants are systematically arrested in France and deported
to Italy or Tunisia.
71 As a consequence, the problem of irregular immigration from
Tunisia has completely obscured the democratic transformations taking
place in the country and now dominates European political discourse
about Tunisians. This is causing uneasiness among representatives
of the Tunisian transition authorities, who do not appreciate European
support for reforms being conditional upon effective control of
72 In this regard, European public opinion is ignoring the fact
that Tunisia is itself confronting a much larger influx of refugees
from Libya. Since the beginning of the Libyan crisis, the authorities
estimate at more than 250 000 the number of Libyans and nationals
of other countries who have fled the conflict and arrived in Tunisia.
Added to that number are some 40 000 Tunisians who had been living
and working in Libya and had to return to Tunisia.
73 These tens of thousands of refugees, who have to be provided
with shelter, food, repatriation assistance in the case of nationals
of third countries, or help with resettlement if they are returning
Tunisians, are placing extremely heavy pressure on Tunisia’s economy
and weakened social structures.
74 In this connection, it also has to be recalled that the conflicts
between the forces loyal to Ghaddafi and the Libyan insurgents do
not always stop at the borders of Libya. Incursions into Tunisian
territory by belligerent forces of both sides have taken place several
times. The Tunisian Army has been forced to respond. There have
also been incidents of shells falling on Tunisian soil.
75 In addition, rivalries between those who are pro- and anti-Ghaddafi
have arisen in the Tunisian population itself in the southern regions
of the country, a cause of grave concern to the authorities.
76 The humanitarian and security situation in southern Tunisia
is therefore very tense and requires constant attention from the
authorities, despite the limited means at their disposal.
77 In these circumstances, Tunisia’s European partners should
show more understanding and consistency and offer the country more
real support and solidarity for the transformation it is undergoing,
instead of exploiting Tunisian migration to Europe for internal
78 A comprehensive, integrated and long-term approach should
take precedence over measures dictated by security considerations.
If it does not, Europe’s image, already affected by the years of
“fruitful co-operation” with the Ben Ali regime, may be tarnished
for a long time to come.
6 Co-operation with
the Council of Europe
Tunisia was involved in certain forms of co-operation
with the Council of Europe long before the events of January 2011.
At Parliamentary Assembly level, Tunisian delegations have regularly
been invited to Strasbourg since 2008 following the adoption of Resolution 1598 (2008)
strengthening co-operation with the Maghreb countries. The President
of the Assembly visited Tunis only a few days before the revolution.
Tunisia became a member of the Venice Commission in 2010.
80 However, it is since the Jasmine Revolution, when the Tunisians
expressed their desire for democracy and political freedom, that
this co-operation has become so important.
The Assembly, through Resolution
, adopted on 27 January 2011, was one of the
first international authorities to welcome the victory of the revolution
and the democratic choice of Tunisian society, and to offer Tunisia
in transition the political support and assistance of the Council
of Europe. We saw that the Tunisians very much appreciated this.
82 On 21 February 2011, Mr Ahmet Davutoğlu, Minister for Foreign
Affairs of Turkey and President of the Committee of Ministers, and
Mr Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe,
went to Tunis and offered the assistance of the Council of Europe
in connection with the preparation of the new constitution.
83 On 9 March 2011, the Political Affairs Committee organised
a hearing with the participation of representatives of Tunisian
civil society, as well as of the President of the Venice Commission,
Mr Gianni Buquicchio. This hearing was particularly useful in enabling
representatives of Tunisian NGOs to learn of the capacities and
experience of the Council of Europe in accompanying transition.
They were also reassured that the Council of Europe approach is
to propose and not to impose solutions or models, respecting the
Tunisians’ wish to maintain control of their revolution.
84 A delegation from the Venice Commission went to Tunis from
16 to 18 March 2011 to discuss possible forms of co-operation. It
was agreed to assign liaison persons to ensure close contact between
the Venice Commission and the Higher Authority in order to achieve
the objectives of the revolution, political reform and democratic
transition. There was also an agreement between the Higher Authority
and the Venice Commission to organise the training of some 300 trainers
of electoral staff.
85 Mr Radhouane Nouicer, State Secretary to the Tunisian Minister
for Foreign Affairs, attended the meeting of the Venice Commission
on 25 March 2011 and received a particularly warm welcome. It gave
him the opportunity to note the added value of taking part in the
work of that advisory body. In addition, Tunisia appointed Professor
Rafaâ Ben Achour, currently Minister-Delegate attached to the Prime
Minister, as an acting member of the Venice Commission.
86 We have also been informed, in a letter from the Secretary
General of the Council of Europe dated 10 May 2011, that Tunisian
representatives have already been invited to take part in certain
programmes in the fields of democracy training, education and youth.
There have also been contacts with the European Commission in order
to conclude a new financial “facility” that would make it possible
to extend co-operation with Tunisia and the other countries on the
southern shore of the Mediterranean undergoing democratic transition.
87 On 20-21 April 2011, the Presidential Committee of the Assembly,
including myself, went to Tunis. We met the key figures in the transition
authorities (the President, Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign
Affairs), as well as the President of the Higher Authority, Mr Yadh
Ben Achour, and Mr Taoufik Bouderbala, who chairs the Commission
of Inquiry into abuses committed by the security forces during the
events of December 2010 – January 2011.
88 During our visit, the President of the Assembly invited the
Prime Minister, Mr Beji Caid Essebsi, to the Assembly session of
June 2011. We were informed that Mr Mouldi El Kefi, Minister for
Foreign Affairs, would come to the June session of our Assembly,
when this report will be presented.
89 We can therefore note that a network of contacts between the
authorities of the Council of Europe and the Tunisian partners has
been established in recent months. These contacts now need to be
transformed into practical forms of co-operation and assistance
concentrating on what is essential and responding to the priorities
of the Tunisians.
90 During the visit of the Presidential Committee we heard, both
from our Tunisian interlocutors and from diplomats serving in Tunis,
that in recent months there had been an unprecedented proliferation
of visits to Tunisia by representatives of various states and international
organisations. Although each visit is motivated by the best intentions
and a sincere wish to help Tunisia in transition, there is no co-ordination
between the various offers of co-operation – and in many cases,
as the Tunisians recognise, the offers are not followed up.
91 We must therefore avoid at all costs the Council of Europe
being one of these “bearers of empty promises”. This means really
concentrating on what we can genuinely offer and what the Tunisians
need at the moment.
92 Among these priorities, I would particularly emphasise the
electoral process, the constitutional process and the functioning
of political institutions.
93 The absolute priority for the Tunisians is the elections;
the credibility and establishment of the democratic changes are
at stake here. Although the legislative framework for the elections
has been decided, we can note that the contributions of the Assembly
and above all of the Venice Commission have already had a positive influence.
We must continue to offer our Tunisian partners the “soft advice”
of the Council of Europe on electoral legislation and practices.
94 There is strong demand from the Tunisians for assistance in
the material organisation of the elections. The Venice Commission
project to train trainers for the administration of the elections
is of great importance. Ways of extending this type of assistance
need to be found, including through Tunisian NGOs, which are insistently
asking for help in training domestic election observers.
95 With its experience of observing elections, the Assembly should
send a large mission for the 24 July elections, if possible preceded
by a pre-election mission. The Tunisians are very anxious for their
first democratic elections to be observed by the international community.
According to our information, an official invitation will shortly
96 The constitutional process has not formally started yet, but
the Higher Authority is already working towards it. The results
of that work will then be transmitted to the Constituent Assembly,
once it is elected. Here too we must offer our Tunisian partners,
in both the Higher Authority and the Constituent Assembly, the constitutional
experience and, if they request it, expertise of the Venice Commission.
The Parliamentary Assembly should, for its part, establish
contacts with the future Constituent Assembly, which will probably,
at least to some extent, have some prerogatives of a parliament.
In order to do so, Resolution
on strengthening co-operation with the Maghreb
countries should be interpreted in such a way as to make it possible
to invite representatives of the Constituent Assembly to the sessions
of the Parliamentary Assembly. To begin with, the President of the
future Constituent Assembly could be invited to address the Parliamentary
Assembly in the framework of a specific debate.
98 The presence in Strasbourg of Tunisian elected representatives
could be useful for making contacts at the level of the Assembly’s
committees and political groups and for their familiarisation with
European parliamentary and political practice.
99 At the same time, contacts at the level of elected representatives
could make it easier to identify the Tunisians’ needs for assistance
in legislative reforms in the various fields, and to develop target
programmes involving Council of Europe experts.
100 With regard to Partner for Democracy status, although parliaments
need to request and deserve it, preliminary contacts could be made
with the Constituent Assembly in order to provide full information
on the conditions for granting this status and how to obtain it.
101 At the level of the Assembly and the Secretariat General,
we should also develop contacts and support the activities of Tunisian
civil society organisations.
102 The North-South Centre is the most appropriate platform for
enabling the different components of Tunisian society to familiarise
themselves with the activities, acquis and potential of the Council
of Europe. Tunisia could be invited to accede to this Partial Agreement.
103 Thought also needs to be given to the extent to which Tunisia
could benefit from the experience of the Council of Europe schools
of political studies and be involved in the activities of the Summer
University for Democracy. Tunisian society is young and the youth
of the country played an active part in the events of winter 2010-2011.
They will play an essential role in the democratic transition. It
is important for future Tunisian leaders to be made aware of the
universal principles and values defended by the Council of Europe.
104 I do not, however, think it a priority at the moment for Tunisia
to accede to the conventions and other instruments of the Council
of Europe. Fully fledged democratically formed institutions should
be established in the country first.
105 The process of democratic transition in Tunisia is
well under way. The Tunisians are proud of the progress they made
in terms of political freedoms during the Jasmine Revolution and
are determined to pursue democratic reforms.
106 After a few weeks of uncertainty, the political situation
seemed fairly calm and an interim institutional stability is now
making it possible to move towards the first democratic elections
to the Constituent Assembly. That this calm is relative and fragile,
however, was shown by the riots in Tunis from 5 to 10 May 2011.
107 In the space of a few weeks, the transition authorities succeeded
in preparing the legislative framework for the elections to the
Constituent Assembly and deciding on the establishment of a body
which will be responsible for the whole electoral process. Although
Tunisian political players are not unanimously in favour of the
draft electoral legislative decree, it represents an important step
forward in relation to the legal void that obtained after the revolution.
At the same time, the material organisation of the elections is
extremely complicated, and the authorities may find it difficult
to keep to the date announced for the ballot. The quality of the
preparation of the elections should, in my opinion, take precedence
over the timetable.
108 The economic and social situation has deteriorated, however,
and there is a danger that it could be exploited on the eve of the
elections, given the impatience of those who fought for freedom.
The conflict in neighbouring Libya and the issue of irregular Tunisian
migrants to Europe are further complicating the situation in the
country and its relations with Europe.
109 After the election of the Constituent Assembly, Tunisia will
have to draft and implement a vast programme of reforms in a great
many areas of political, legal and social life. The experience of
democratic transition in Europe could serve as a source of inspiration
and prove useful in setting priorities for the reforms.
110 The Parliamentary Assembly and other Council of Europe authorities
should continue to follow political developments in Tunisia and
remain available to the Tunisian partners in order to offer them
their experience and expertise in European democratic transition,
without presuming to impose solutions. The Tunisians’ wish to maintain
control of the construction of Tunisian democracy must be fully
111 Consultation and co-ordination among international bodies
are essential in order to ensure that assistance is effective.