Tag Archives: Tunisia

What areas of cooperation between European institutions and countries of the Mediterranean basin?

Hugues Mingarelli, Advisor in the European External Action Service (EEAS), presented his view on the different forms of cooperation between the EU and the Southern Mediterranean during a PROSMED conference organized on June 3rd, 2016 at the University of Toulon with the support of FEMISE*.

Hugues Mingarelli, Advisor in the European External Action Service, Photo EEAS

Hugues Mingarelli, Advisor in the European External Action Service, Photo EEAS

What tools can the EU share with Southern Mediterranean countries to promote their integration?

Hugues Mingarelli : The EU can share its experience in the fields of economic and political transition, as well as in regional cooperation. It can also share its expertise to promote freedom of the press, to ensure effective judicial system, to allow holding elections in acceptable conditions, to ensure that human rights are taken into account in police work.

Is the planned Deep Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) between Tunisia and the EU adaptable to other countries? 

Hugues Mingarelli : We must seek tailored solutions for each partner country. The idea of the DCFTA is to break free of the generally low custom duties for existing members of the WTO. For countries that wish to do so, it is also about providing an opportunity of integrating our domestic market by adopting the EU norms and standards. Currently, negotiations with Tunisia and Morocco are ongoing, but if other countries in the Middle East are interested in this kind of approach, that is to say if they are interested by gradual integration into the EU market, then I think they have every reason to discuss with the EU the possibility of such agreements.

How do current events and political changes in the South affect the process of integration?

Hugues Mingarelli: In a number of countries, aspiring to democracy resulted in a stronger desire to benefit from the EU’s experience in democratic transition. But in some countries, such as in Libya, this led to great instability. When volatility reaches a certain level it becomes increasingly difficult to promote the transition and take advantage of what the EU can offer in terms of experience in this field.

What role can civil society institutions such as FEMISE play?

Hugues Mingarelli : We realized long ago that we can no longer solely rely on State to State and on International Organizations to State relations, but it is also very important that the civil society takes its place in the process of political and economic transition. We must continue working in that direction.


* FEMISE participated in this event with the financial assistance of the European Union in the context of the EU-FEMISE project “Support to economic research, studies and dialogue of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership”.

Interview by Laetitia Moreni, Econostrum.

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Report on: “Elements for a Strategic Economic and Social Development of Tunisia in the Medium-Term”


Tunisie_Final_V4-coverThis publication is a novel study on the Tunisian economy which analyzes its main economic and social development vectors for the post-transition period. It also offers a social and economic reform program, supporting various macroeconomic framework scenarios.

The present work is sought to deepen the knowledge on the constraints to growth, macroeconomic and social balance in Tunisia and suggests a detailed strategy for the coming years. After the events of January 2011, it became necessary to gather and deepen the various works that had been conducted in order to see whether there is a consensus that allows guiding a medium term development policy, targeting key critical points and defining policy priorities.

It is clear that there is an agreement on the limits and difficulties of the current growth model, on the urgent need to prepare the conditions for a revival of the Tunisian economy and on getting in the next 10 years a boost that allows Tunisia to access a first class rank in emerging countries (with a growth rate of around 7% per year versus almost 4% obtained in the period 2000-2010 and 2% since then). However, operational policies are not sufficiently implemented because the urgency of the situation brought short-term solutions to maintain social peace. But many challenges lie in the details and every truly progressive measure involves heavy political choices that are difficult to implement.

It is this concern that motivates the detailed analysis in this work which, in a way, gathers the current economic and social thinking on Tunisia.

This work was carried out under the direction of Professor Chedly Ayari (Professor Emeritus of the University of Tunis El Manar) and Professor Jean Louis Reiffers (President of the Scientific Committee of the Institute of the Mediterranean – Marseille and of the Scientific Committee of Femise and Professor Emeritus of the University of Toulon). The scientific coordination of this work was carried out by Professor Sami Mouley (University of Tunis), in collaboration with a team of contributors that includes Tunisian and French university professors as well as FEMISE experts.

Download the whole report (only in French, pdf, 467p, 9.7MB)

Decentralization and Economic Performance in Selected South Mediterranean Countries

The project attempts to understand the specific nature of “State” and “Sub-state” relationships in Southern Mediterranean countries and its role in driving spatial economic and social disparities. The report is structured in three parts. The first part provides an overview of the literature on decentralization and regional development. The second part focuses on the political economy of the process of decentralization in the three selected south Mediterranean countries. To a large extent this part presents the key findings of the country studies completed under the research project. Three countries have been covered, namely Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. The third part presents the findings of the econometric investigation of the relationship between proxies of regional performance and decentralization indicators. This part is a preliminary analytical attempt to understand the channels through which financial decentralization proxies such as the volume of local revenues or the share of central-state transfers in local revenues are interacting with socio-economic indicators such as unemployment rates and firms’ location across the national territory.

South Mediterranean countries have more centralized states when compared to other emerging and developing countries. The three countries (Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia) are unitary states with multiple layers in the sub-national administration. The three countries are endowed with a dual system of elected and appointed authority at each layer. The range of activities devolved to sub-national administration seems to be broader in Morocco and Tunisia compared to Egypt.

Before the collapse of Mubarak’s regime in Egypt, the National Democratic Party (NDP) dominated local popular councils, which led to poor checks and balances on the executive councils. The ex-military officials have been often appointed as heads of the Local Executive Councils (LECs). In Tunisia, Ben Ali’s ruling party (RCD) played a major role in local politics before revolution, which undermined potential benefits of decentralization. In Morocco, no single political party dominated local politics. Yet, the high number of political parties and the election mode adopted has led in many cases to fragmentation of local councils and unstable political alliances.

Decentralization in the three countries is handicapped by limited financial strength of local administration. The share of local administration spending in GDP is estimated to 4.6. Wages and other current costs dominate local spending. The three countries have poor local revenues due to limited fiscal decentralization. Local entities in the three countries suffer from an excessive dependence on the central government’s transfers. Despite multiple and sophisticated criteria used, the distribution of the central state transfers to local entities is questionable and does not fulfil its purposes. Regional disparities, although to a large extent explained by different regional initial conditions and unequal natural endowments; are exacerbated by public policies.

Empirically, the project investigates the specific impact of decentralization on economic and social outcomes. Data availability constrained the extent to which a more ambitious econometric exercise could be conducted. At this stage, the key conclusion of our econometric exercise is that the pattern of decentralization as it stands today in the countries investigated does not seem to affect neither regional unemployment rates nor firms’ location.

The Arab uprisings have liberated people’s voices including in remote areas usually forgotten or marginalized in national politics. The emerging political debate in the transition towards democracy in the south Mediterranean should lead to a new era in the relationships between the central state and the sub-national territories. Further research need to be conducted in order to determine the right mix, for each country, between providing incentives from better service delivery through political and fiscal decentralization while at the same time ensuring that the principle of national solidarity plays its role via central state transfers to adjust for regional disparities.