Econintersect: Tourism has essentially vanished from Tunisia in the face of violent rioting in protest of food scarcities and high costs combined with crushing unemployment, which has ranged from 13% to more than 15% for the past eight years. And now the country’s president has fled the country.
Responses from other Mediteranean countries has been subdued as the government of President Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali, in office for nearly 14 years, has been widely viewed as corrupt.
The Financial Times reports:
Reports by EU Observer include the following:
As democracy protests continued to grip cities across Tunisia on Friday (14 January) and human rights groups denounced the massacre of over 60 demonstrators, the European Union welcomed an announcement by the country’s president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, that he would not seek re-election in 2014.
“We believe this creates some opportunity for a smooth transition,” EU foreign affairs spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told reporters after Mr Ben Ali, who has ruled the country since 1987, announced the night before he would reform the way the country is run.
Ms Kocijancic also backed the announcement that the government would no longer use live rounds against protesters. Authorities have killed 66 individuals in recent weeks, according to the France-based International Human Rights Federation, which has described the government’s crackdown as an “ongoing massacre.”
By the end of the day on Friday, the president had sacked the government and called early elections in six months’ time.
On Monday, Ms Ashton and Stefan Fuele, the enlargement and neighbourhood policy commissioner, responsible for relations with north African governments, said that the bloc’s negotiations to upgrade relations with Tunis to “advanced status” would continue despite the brutality, but that they would involve greater commitment to “human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
“We are concerned about the events that have been taking place in Tunisia in recent days,” the pair said in a statement. “In particular, we deplore the violence and the death of civilians.”
Left-wing, liberal and Green MEPs however have expressed their dismay at a “delayed” and “weak” response to the killings by foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton.