If Tunisia Is Not Helped, Muslim Brotherhood May ‘Create Instability’: Italian FM
By Arab News
By Francesco Bongarra
The international community runs the risk of “having the Muslim Brotherhood create instability” in Tunisia if the country is not promptly granted “substantial financial help,” Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said at a conference attended by Arab News.
“We can’t afford the radicalization of the Mediterranean,” he added, saying Tunisia is on the verge of “economic collapse,” and negotiations for a loan of nearly $1.9 billion from the International Monetary Fund have “stalled” over President Kais Saied’s recent policies.
Elected in 2019, Saied dissolved Parliament in July 2021, reformed the country’s constitution to increase his presidential powers, and then held a referendum followed by parliamentary elections with a very low turnout.
At the beginning of this year he cracked down on dissent, arresting politicians, labor union members, judges and members of civil society.
The economic situation in Tunisia is dire, leading more and more people to try to reach Italy on small boats.
Tajani said Italy is “the most interested” in ensuring that “Tunisia solves its problems and doesn’t become a failed state.”
He added that the Italian government has been working hard to ensure that the IMF and the World Bank help Tunisia.
“But there’s a problem: The IMF, with the support of the US, says, ‘You first carry out reforms, and then we’ll give the money.’ On the other hand, the Tunisians say, ‘First the money and then the reforms’,” he said.
“This is why we propose that the IMF gives immediately a first tranche of money; the rest of the loan can be paid in line with the progress of reforms.”
Tajani said the international community “can’t afford to make the mistake of leaving Tunisia to the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Stefania Craxi, president of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the Italian Senate, told Arab News: “The Muslim Brotherhood will prosper if the grant doesn’t come and the economy keeps going down.”
She added: “It’s right for the IMF to ask for reforms, but they must grant the loan before the worst happens. That money must come now.”