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Tunisian President Kais Saied rejected financial aid from the European Union, a move that could undermine a deal between Tunisia and the bloc to stop illegal migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Africa to Europe, Reuters reported.
Last month, the EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, announced it would send $133 million in aid to Tunisia as part of a deal on immigration agreed to in July.
The deal includes measures on combating human traffickers and tightening borders and also a pledge of more than $1 billion in aid to help Tunisia’s battered economy, as well as implement measures to stem migration.
But Saied said Monday that Tunisia would reject the Commission’s aid “not because of the small amount … but because the proposal conflicts with the memorandum of understanding signed in July.”
Reuters said the smaller-than-promised payouts have frustrated the Tunisian government as it struggles to improve public finances. Credit rating agencies have also warned that the government could default on foreign debt in the coming months.
Saied’s comments come amid recent disputes between Tunisia and the EU in regard to the agreement and migration.
Tunisia recently postponed a European Commission delegation’s visit to discuss the deal and denied entry to five members of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee due to concerns about political interference.
Some European nations, including Germany, have also expressed opposition against the agreement, saying that it fails to address human rights concerns and the turgid political situation in Tunisia following Saied’s assumption of power, his dissolution of the Tunisian parliament, and his continued rule by decree.