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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07TUNIS1503 2007-11-21 16:03:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tunis
Cable title:  

EU PUTS TUNISIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES ON THE TABLE

Tags:   PHUM PGOV PREL KDEM KPAO TS 
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VZCZCXYZ0014
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTU #1503/01 3251603
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 211603Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY TUNIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4124
INFO RUCNMGH/MAGHREB COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L TUNIS 001503 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

NEA/MAG (HOPKINS/HARRIS); DRL (JOHNSTONE)
LONDON AND PARIS FOR NEA WATCHER

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/15/2017
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL KDEM KPAO TS
SUBJECT: EU PUTS TUNISIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES ON THE TABLE

REF: A. TUNIS 1463

B. TUNIS 1378

C. TUNIS 1283

D. TUNIS 1404

Classified By: Ambassador Robert F. Godec for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

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Summary
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1. (C) EU Charge de Mission Bernard Philippe told the
Ambassador on November 15 that he was encouraged that the
November 12 EU-Tunisian Sub-Committee on Human Rights had
taken up several serious issues, including torture and the
2009 elections. Philippe noted, however, there were a few
missed opportunities (e.g. a discussion of corruption). The
EU's basic message, which is similar to the USG's, was that
Tunisia's economic and social progress affords it the ability
to foster increased political freedom. End Summary.



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Dialogue on Human Rights


--------------------------





2. (C) Following up on their pre-meeting discussion (Ref
A), EU Charge de Mission Bernard Philippe briefed the
Ambassador on November 15 about the results of the November
12 EU-Tunisia Sub-Committee meeting on Human Rights.
Philippe began by reiterating that if progress is to be made
on human rights issues in Tunisia, it is important that the
US and EU coordinate their message. According to Philippe,
the November 12 meeting (which took place in Tunis) lasted
eight and a half hours, and sowed the seeds for a more
specific discussion regarding a number of sensitive and
contentious issues. The meeting was attended by twelve EU
ambassadors to Tunisia, and Philippe opined that it was
unusual for the EU to be represented at such meeting at such
a high level. Philippe interpreted their attendance as
representing the importance the EU attaches to human rights
issues. He noted that the Italy was not represented (having
no ambassador in Tunis) and that France was represented by
its Charge. The Tunisian delegation was headed by Khemaies
Jhinaoui, who will be leaving the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
to become the Tunisian Ambassador to Russia. Representatives
from several ministries were present on the Tunisian side,
include those from Justice and Foreign Affairs.



3. (C) Philippe characterized the meeting as a whole as
constructive and positive, which he said was much to the
relief of the Tunisians, who were visibly nervous in the
weeks leading up to the meeting. Philippe hopes that ending
on a positive note will encourage the Tunisians to agree to
follow-up meetings where issues can be discussed more in
depth. (Note: The Tunisians insisted that the November 12
meeting focus on generalities, not specifics, before they
would allow the meeting to take place. See Ref A. End Note.)



4. (C) During the sub-committee meeting, the EU emphasized
that democracy and human rights are a cornerstone of EU
policy, and proposed electoral assistance similar to what
they provided Morocco in 2007. The Tunisians did not comment
on the offer. The EU also proposed that Tunisia allow a
joint EU-IMF study of the transparency and efficiency of
public finances, framing it as a prerequisite for further
financial assistance.



5. (C) Philippe opined that the Tunisians tried to shift the
discussion away from their human rights record by bringing up
the treatment of Tunisian citizens in Europe. Noting that 80
percent of Tunisian migrants are in Europe, the Tunisians
raised the question of how its citizens are treated abroad.
Both sides agreed to further examine this issue in a joint
meeting with the EU's Sub-Committee on Justice, Liberty, and
Migration.



6. (C) The EU representatives raised the GOT's
anti-terrorism campaign's impact on Tunisian civil society.
While the EU suggested that repressing political dialogue
frustrates and radicalizes society, the GOT flatly refuted
the premise that political dialogue is repressed. Rather,
they said, journalists can report anything they want to any
media outlet. The EU complained about "frozen" EU-funded
human rights projects due to difficulties processing the
funds. The EU also noted that the GOT has refused to allow
UN observers to examine issues such as torture. As such
visits fall under the umbrella of various UN conventions to
which Tunisia is a party, the GOT said it would consider the
issue. Another point of concern for the EU was the treatment
of prisoners before, during, and after incarceration.



--------------------------


Missed Opportunities


--------------------------





7. (C) Philippe told the Ambassador the sub-committee did
not raise the issue of corruption, which he called a "missed
opportunity." Discussions regarding judicial reform,
meanwhile, were not productive. According to Philippe, the
EU had a 23 million euro program to support the modernization
of the judicial system, but the Tunisians managed to avoid
any and all attempts at a substantive dialogue. As a result,
the program's deliverables were mainly equipment (cars,
etc.). Philippe was clearly frustrated with the results of
the program, and characterized it as "a very negative
experience." Philippe told the Ambassador he wished that the
sub-committee had emphasized judicial independence more,
though he was pleased the subject of administrative reform
had been raised. He noted that on many occasions, while the
Tunisians listened politely, they were silent and did not
offer the opportunity for a real conversation about human
rights issues.



--------------------------


What's Next


--------------------------





8. (C) As noted Ref A, the November 12 sub-committee
meeting will be followed by a November 19 EU-Tunisian
Ministerial meeting. Philippe said he hoped this will
provide an opportunity to raise topics such as torture and
specific human rights cases in more depth and promised to
provide the Ambassador with a readout. He commented that the
EU compares the relationships it has with various
"Neighborhood" countries, and the general consensus is that
Tunisia is the most difficult place to have a true dialogue
on controversial issues. This has led to a progressive
worsening of EU-Tunisian relations, which the EU would like
to address while still pursuing progress on human rights
issues. Philippe noted that though the EU-Tunisia
sub-committee meeting on human rights is only scheduled to
take place annually, he hoped that the November 12 meeting
would provide an opening for intermediate meetings on human
rights before the next annual meeting in 2008.



--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------





9. (C) The EU and GOT have different perspectives regarding
human rights, as evidenced by the GOT and EU each bringing
their own annotated agenda to the November 12 meeting. Both
the EU and the USG have taken the stance that political
reform is essential for long-term progress and stability, but
convincing the GOT of the need for political liberalization
remains an uphill battle. Though Philippe was positive
regarding the November 12 meeting, the Romanian Ambassador to
Tunisia (who was also present at the November 12 meeting)
told the Ambassador that he felt little was accomplished.
The Embassy will continue to encourage information exchange
and cooperation, especially with regard to the upcoming 2009
presidential and legislative elections. End Comment.
GODEC