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SOLIDAR ENP up close | No. 19 | EU-Tunisia Association council
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EU-TUNISIA ASSOCIATION COUNCIL: ENP IMPLEMENTATION SHOULD BE ABOUT SOCIO-ECONOMIC RIGHTS FIRST!

On 18 April 2016, the EU-Tunisia Association Council reiterated the key priorities of political and economic cooperation between the European Union and Tunisia in the context of the implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). The official joint communication of VP/HR Federica Mogherini, and the Tunisian Minister for Foreign Affairs Khemaies Jhinaoui, re-emphasises the key cooperation priorities including the fight against terrorism, support to socio-economic reforms and the negotiation of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA), and support to the national tripartite dialogue.
 
In detail, this Association Council officially kicked off the first round of negotiations for a DCFTA with Tunisia after the
Motion for a Resolution on the opening of negotiations for a EU-Tunisia Free Trade Agreement. In the context of the ENP implementation, SOLIDAR calls for the ENP to promote the progressive realisation of economic, social and cultural rights (ESCRs), and notes that a DCFTA should consider the following issues:
  • While promoting an asymmetric trade agreement that takes into consideration the important socio-economic disparities between the two parties, the EU should ensure that the trade liberalisation policies should not undermine domestic productive capacities with a focus on the domestic and regional markets, and are anchored on the basis of creating decent work, social protection and foster inclusive social development, within both trading partner countries;
  • The sectors of education, health care and social services of general interests should be excluded from the DCFTAs negotiations; Ensuring universal access to social services is a pre-requisite to combating poverty and reduce socio-economic inequalities. In this regard, social services should be left out of free trade agreements, and social economy actors should be better recognised and promoted as key components for promoting quality, affordable and accessible services as a basis; In this regard, quality principles for the relationships between service providers and users, as well as the relationships between service providers, public authorities, social partners and other stakeholders should be established and respected to ensure that the specific characteristics of services of general interests are taken into account when setting procurement rules;  
  • While recognising the positive contribution of labour migration to the economy, migrant workers, regardless of their status, must enjoy equal treatment under labour legislation and full respect of their fundamental rights at work. Migrant workers involved in trade, and services in particular, should enjoy the same right to equal treatment as other workers. On top of that, host country laws and collective agreements should apply, without equal treatment being considered an obstacle to free trade. The EU should promote the application of national labour law and international labour standards to all migrant workers, including refugees and asylum seekers, irregular migrants and those covered under Mode IV –type of services; Lastly, readmission clauses should not be, by any means, included in the current DCFTA.
  • It is essential to demand a new binding definition of the “concept of conditionality”. Conditionality cannot be prone to “cherry picking” serving the interests of the EU, but has to be enshrined – amongst others – in the Universal declaration of Human Rights, ILO Core Conventions, International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, EU Charter on Fundamental Rights and the Council of Europe Charter on Social Rights. Policy differentiation within the ENP should not be used as a tool to bring further economic policy conditionality, austerity and privatisation of essential services.  
In addition, Solidar Tunisia has highlighted the potential risks that such an agreement could create. Particularly, causing difficulties for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in an intensely competitive environment, destabilising the Tunisian agricultural sector and increasing the fiscal and external deficits which would limit structural reforms (reform of the administration, education and health, taxation, social systems, etc.). The Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) has issued a statement with key policy recommendations vis à vis the DCFTAs, which you can read here.
 
SOLIDAR works closely with Civil Society in Tunisia to promote freedom of association, decent work and social protection in the framework of an EU-funded regional programme. Read here the 2015 Social Protection Monitoring Report on Tunisia.


Please read here the SOLIDAR statement on the “Red Lines” for the implementation of the ENP in Tunisia.
 

This publication has been produced with the financial support of the European Commission. The information contained in this publication does not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of the European Commission.
 
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