Mr Louis Michel, President of the Council of the European Union /Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium

22/10/2001
Press release

Dear President of the Council,

We are writing to you in view of your upcoming meeting with Mr Ben Yahia, the minister for foreign
affairs of Tunisia, which is scheduled to take place on 25 October.

The Association Agreement, which was signed on 17 July 1995 by the European Community and its
member states on the one hand and by the Republic of Tunisia on the other hand, and which came into
force on 1 March 1998, includes a legally binding human rights clause (Art. 2). This clause stipulates
that relations between the parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself, shall be based
on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guide their domestic and international
policies and constitute an essential element of the Agreement.

The deterioration of the human rights situation since the EU-Tunisian Agreement took effect poses an
acute challenge to the EU policy toward Tunisia, and more generally toward the Mediterranean
region. How the EU proceeds in this regard toward Tunisia, the first country where an Association
Agreement came into effect, will have precedential impact on the EU’s credibility and effectiveness in
addressing human rights issues with its other Mediterranean partners.

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