Hans-Jürgen Beerfeltz: Friendly by Tradition – German-Tunisian Business Relations

The Arab world has seen radical chan­­ges since 2011. These changes all began in the Tunisian Republic. Thus, it is all the more im­­portant that Tunisia makes the democratic change irreversible. Even though nobody knows where the development is heading, going back to the old situation is hardly conceivable. People are fed up with paternalism, oppression and having no prospects in life. The achievement of the Jasmine Revolution 2010/2011 and the flourishing democracy must not be jeopardi­­sed, considering the difficult current situ­­ation. I would like to see politically in­­­­vol­­­ved persons from government and op­­­position be aware of their responsibility for the well-being of the entire country at this very decisive moment of the bur­­geoning democracy in the Tunisian Republic.

KfW_5405-Kopie

Therefore, a real change can only succeed if the economic situation improves and especially young people see new op­­portunities. Supporting Tunisia in this pro­­cess presents an opportunity, even for the Federal Republic of Germany. This is not about exporting a western-style democracy: a political sys­­­tem may only be stable in the long run if it is based on the notions of legitimacy of its own society. However, our cultural openness ends whenever fundamental rights are violated. Respecting human rights is a basic requirement for any sup­­port through German development co­­­oper­ation.

Tunisia is important to us. This is why I conducted governmental talks with a partner country of the Maghreb region at the level of secretary of state in Sep­­tember 2012. These consultations re­­­flec­­­ted the new quality of the bilateral relations and the significance that the German government places on the polit­­­ical and economic change in Tunisia. The Joint Political Declaration signed in Berlin intensified the cooperation between Ger­­­many and Tunisia in the fields of education, higher education, vocational training and further education, research and inno­­vation, including cooperation in the ener­­gy sector and with respect to good gover­­­nance.

Tunisia has been a partner for Germany for decades. The Jasmine Revolution, how­­­ever, opened a new chapter in our bilateral relationship.

KfW_5396-Kopie

Germany provides a three-figure am­­­ount in the millions for development cooper­­ation and the German-Tunisian transform­­ation partnership. We adapt cooperation to the new priorities of the country: development of remote regions, em­­­ploy­­­ment promotion and political transform­ation. Germany has converted 60 million euros in debts of the old Tunisia – funds that the new Tunisia can now use for de­­velopment projects and job-creating mea­s­­ures in poorer regions. In addition, Ger­­many provides 51 million euros to make it easier for smaller companies in Tunisia to access funds, thereby creating new long-term jobs. In the political transforma­­­tion process, we support Tunisia in de­­­cen­­­tralisation, among other things, be­­­cause decentralised planning procedures that involve the population can contribute to setting up a constructive relationship between the state and the society.

Economic freedom provides the framework for freedom of action. Especially young people want to improve their lives through their own work and actively con­­­­tribute to shaping the Tunisia of tomorrow. They want to live the value of free­­dom. We support Tunisia in developing an ecologically sustainable, social and com­­­petitive economy. At the same time, the democratic development is laying the foundation for our further cooperation.

Our development cooperation is always aimed at improving the living conditions of the people: we improve water supply in agriculture so that farmers achieve higher yields. we improve the education of young people so that they find qualified employment more quickly. We im­­­prove the micro-finance sector so that small, self-employed entrepreneurs across the country have easier access to loans.

Young people want to make a difference. Anybody who has obtained a qualification through trainings and further education lasting several years has the right to expect good chances of employment. We create opportunities and possibilities in close cooperation with the private sec­­­tor and arrange traineeships for university graduates. This way the graduates are able to gain professional experience and increase their chances of employment. Furthermore, market niches with growth potentials are identified and business formations in these fields are fostered. In Tunisian holiday regions, jobs are created in the tourism sector and, above all, safeguarded throughout the off-season.

KfW_5342-Kopie

Germany not only improves everyday life for the people living directly in the area, the economic frame­­­work conditions are also improved as a whole, that set the basis for sustainable growth. Through close cooperation with the German-Tu­nisian Chamber of Industry and Com­­merce (Auslandshandelskammer – AHK), and political advice by the Ministry of Industry on innovation and business form­­­ations, the competitiveness of the Tu­­­nisian economy is strengthened sustain­­ably. This is how the investment con­­­ditions for the private sector and the people’s employment opportunities are improved.

Apart from this, many initiatives by different departments have been established in the framework of the transformation partnership agreed by the Federal Republic of Germany and the Tunisian Republic, which facilitate a flexible reaction to current challenges even today.

The first fruits of the Tunisian population’s efforts are becoming evident. For instance, Tunisia has rightly obtained the “status avancé” status with the EU. Tunisia is the first associated country of the re­­­gion to achieve the status of a “privileged partnership” with the EU. From our per­­­spective, this also represents a recognition of the democratic process in the country in political terms.

The status brings about tangible advantages for Tunisia. Previously there only was a free trade agreement with the European Union for Tunisian industrial goods. Now the legal framework has been established for allowing agricultural products and ser­­­vices to also benefit from these privileges. Better export conditions for Tunisia strengthen the economy in the country and create jobs. The partnership will pro­­vide further advantages for exports to the countries of the EU and improve the environment for foreign investors.

KfW_5392-Kopie

Tourists and investors have one thing in common: they both want security. Tunisia has significantly improved its international reputation through its mainly peaceful democratic transformation. This repu­­­tation should be preserved and developed further. To increase German investment noticeably, it is now important that the Tunisian government concentrate on the adoption of a constitution that unites the people and then holds free and fair elec­­tions based thereon. I am certain that these two steps will further increase Tunisia’s reputation in the world. To Ger­­man companies I say: if you wait too long, you will miss out on the best opportunities.

Foto.Sts-KopieThe author is secretary of state of the Federal Ministry for Economic Coop­­er­ation and Development and was federal managing director of the FDP party from 1995 to 2009. He learned the main features of development policy during his career at the Friedrich Naumann Foun­­­dation and served over 100 international missions in Central and South America as well as in Southeast Asia.