Commissioner Hahn’s visit to Tunisia should set clear ‘red lines’ for the implementation of the ENP in Tunisia

On Thursday 7th April, the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood and Enlargement negotiations, Johannes Hahn will be on an official visit to Tunisia. Among the key priorities of the visit are the implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), and in particular the launch of the upcoming negotiations with Tunisia for a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA).

SOLIDAR works in Tunisia in close partnership with civil society organisations (CSOs) and independent trade unions to promote social justice thought decent work and social protection for all. In the framework of an EU-funded regional programme to promote Freedom of Association, Decent Work and Social protection for all.

In this context, SOLIDAR wishes to draw some red lines for the implementation of the ENP in Tunisia to ensure that economic and social rights remain at the heart of the EU-Tunisia Partnership. For this, concretely the ENP implementation in Tunisia should:

  • Adopt a comprehensive strategy to promote the progressive realisation of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCRs) to achieve decent work and social protection for all.

By supporting the process of implementation of the 2013 Social Contract and the establishment of the National Social Protection Floor as per ILO R 202, by supporting the expansion of the social security system and universal health insurance for informal workers, domestic and migrant workers; intensify efforts to improve women’s access to formal and decent employment; and ensure the implementation of the ratified International Labour conventions in terms of health and safety at work, child labour, discrimination at work; support the process to establish an unemployment insurance scheme against job losses.

By strengthening budget support through the Single Support Framework (SSF) of the EU to promote inclusive social protection policies and decent work, and in particular focusing on ensuring universal access to essential quality services. In particular, more focus should be given to promote universal access to quality education and health services in order to reduce geographic disparities, and promoting non-formal and informal learning, including culture, citizenship, education and human rights; more focus should also be given to directly support social economy actors in Tunisia, as a key tool to foster the transition from informal to formal economy.

  • Ensure the statutory role of Civil Society and independent trade union in the implementation and monitoring of the ENP.

By setting up ESCRs observatories in close cooperation with EU delegations: foster the creation of supervising initiatives (observatories) in close cooperation with EU delegations to monitor the progress made by the ENP in promoting ESCRs in line also with the implementation of the different chapters of the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy – and in particular the chapter referring to ESCRs – in partnership with local civil society and social partners;

By Promoting structured dialogue between civil society and the EU on the political priorities of the EU towards the country on development, trade, migration and environmental issues, and ensure the transparent and meaningful consultation with civil society and social partners on key EU tools, including the EU Human Rights and Democracy country strategies.

  • Promote Sustainable Trade policies.

In the framework of the ENP implementation, one of the key priorities of the EU-Tunisia partnership is to negotiate a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). Tunisian civil society has already stipulated the risks of an agreement as such, competition among Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and national budgetary deficits could jeopardise the needed structural reforms. The EU should ensure that the trade liberalisation policies enhance and support 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.

Therefore, the sectors of education, health care and social services of general interests should be excluded from the DCFTA 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.

Photo © European Union , 2016 / Photo: Mohamed Hammi

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