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Tunisia Wants 'Constructive' Chat With EU

FILE: Tunisia's President Kais Saied speaks to the media as he arrives for the first day of a European Union- African Union summit at the European Council building in Brussels, Belgium. Taken Feb.17, 2022.

TUNIS - Tunisia on Monday called for a "constructive discourse" from the European Union after a string of leaders warned the country is facing a crisis that could impact the 27-member bloc.

After meeting European Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni, Tunisian Foreign Minister Nabil Ammar said he had "invited the European side to show more understanding of this particular phase through which our country is going."

He also called on Europe "to adopt a responsible and constructive discourse reflecting the reality" in the country.

Ammar stressed that Tunisia "relies first on the mobilization of own resources, and on the economic and financial support of its partners, including the EU, for the success of the process of political, economic and social reforms."

Tunisia, heavily indebted and facing high inflation and unemployment, has been negotiating for several months with the International Monetary Fund for a loan worth nearly $2 billion, but discussions appear to have stalled since an agreement in principle announced in mid-October.

In recent days, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and the EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell have issued dire warnings over Tunisia's financial state and the risks an economic collapse could spark a flow of migrants across the Mediterranean.

Migrants from across Africa and Tunisia itself regularly use Tunisia's coastline, less than 150 kilometers from the Italian island of Lampedusa, as a springboard for attempts to reach Europe.

Several dozen migrants from sub-Saharan Africa have died in a series of shipwrecks in recent weeks and others remain missing at sea.

This comes after President Kais Saied made an incendiary speech last month accusing sub-Saharan African migrants of representing a demographic threat and causing a crime wave in Tunisia.