Egypt and Tunisia
Thursday، 21 December 2017 12:00 AM
The relations between Egypt and Tunisia are exceptionally strong, reflected in the compatible viewpoints on the international and regional issues and in the full coordination in between them in the international meetings.
The relations between the two countries has historical roots as the Fatimid capital moved from Mahdia in Tunisia to Cairo transferring the Islamic monuments and Fatimid architecture to Egypt. Thus the moderate enlightened Islamic thought extended from the Zaytouna Mosque in Tunisia to Al-Azhar.
There are many common characteristics the two countries share. They were at the forefront of the Arab Spring countries as the Tunisian revolution was followed by the January 25th revolution in Egypt.
Egypt and Tunisia have witnessed the emergence of the Islamic powers on the scene, their access to power and their failure in administration. This led to a relapse and a desire to change and that was interpreted in convening the elections in Tunisia and the June 30 revolution in Egypt. The two countries face common challenges, foremost of which are the armed Takfiri terrorism and the movements of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The two countries have distinguished historical relations at all levels, especially on the economic and cultural fields.
After the success of the 30th of June revolution and the election of president Sisi in Egypt and president El Sebsi in Tunisia ,the Egyptian- Tunisian political relations witnessed improvement. Mutual understanding is the hallmark of Egyptian-Tunisian relations. The two countries hold identical views with regard to issues related to the Palestinian question, Iraq, Sudan and Lebanon .
Hereinfter, we expose to the most important stations of relationships between the two countries at the political level:-
Sisi / Sebsi
The Egyptian-Tunisian relations have witnessed a general development especially in the field of combating terrorism, following the success of the 30 June Revolution and the election of President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi as President of Egypt, who is keen to develop the Egyptian, Arab, international and regional relations after the period of political instability in Egypt since January 2011, and also after the election of Beji Caid Essebsi as President of Tunisia, who in his turn pledged to develop bilateral relations with Egypt, stressing that Egypt is the cornerstone of Arab relations and must remain so.
After a five-year hiatus, the joint Egyptian-Tunisian committee, chaired by former Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab and his Tunisian counterpart Habib Essid, was held in September 2015 in Tunisia to promote joint cooperation between the two countries.
Mahlab has signed 17 agreements and memorandum of understanding with the Tunisian side in various fields, including industry, trade, education, tourism, manpower, economic supervision, radio, television, culture and traditional industries.
On 4/7/2017, the meetings of a joint Egyptian-Tunisian consular committee wrapped up in Cairo. The two sides discussed ways of boosting cooperation in the consular fields to facilitate the affairs of the two countries’ citizens. They also discussed the security, labor and cultural cooperation.
On 20/2/2017, Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria signed on the Tunisia Ministerial Declaration to support the political settlement in Libya.
Morsi / Marzouki
The relations between the two countries were characterized by coldness during the period of Marzouki’s rule of Tunisia. During this period, the new session of the Egyptian-Tunisian Higher Committee was held under the chairmanship of the prime ministers of the two countries to activate the programs and cooperation agreements, particularly in the economic, telecommunications and information technology fields, and to exchange experiences related to modernizing local industries and increasing their ability to compete against foreign products.
They also discussed ways of cooperation in renewable energy projects, especially in the field of solar, seawater desalination, rationalization of energy consumption, oil, education, scientific research, transfer of technology and cooperation in marketing the two countries' products in the international markets.
Mubarak / Zein al-Abedin
Generally speaking ,the period of the rule of former President Mubarak, which lasted 30 years, was characterized by its interest in the internal affairs on the expense of the Arab issues following the so-called political realism, which could not embark with the events driven by other parties Arab or foreign. In spite of that, the political relations between Egypt and Tunisia were characterized in this period by strength and understanding being reflected in the similar stances of the two countries on various issues of mutual interest, foremost of which are the Palestinian cause, the Iraqi issue and the situation in Sudan and Lebanon.
The two countries have also been keen to consult and coordinate stances in various international and regional forums to achieve their common interests. For example, the mutual support for the Egyptian and Tunisian nominations in the various regional and international organizations.
In the framework of the bilateral relations between the two countries during this period, we point out the following:
-The establishment of a joint supreme committee chaired by The prime ministers of both countries. It meets annually in Egypt and Tunisia alternately and the round was held in Egypt in 30 June-1 July 2007.
-The sub-Committees for Technological and Scientific Cooperation, for Religious Affairs, for Technical Affairs, for Tourism, Customs Affairs, for Consulate Affairs and for Transport witnessed intensive activity during 2005-2006.
-The 10th session of the Political Follow-Up and Consultation Committee was held on March 6-7, 2007 Bin Ali welcomed the Egyptian foreign affairs minister and the visit had a positive effect on the mutual relations .
Abdel Nasser / Bourguiba
Since 1957, Egyptian-Tunisian relations had been tense specially after the Tunisian opponent Saleh Ben Youssef resorted to Egypt and launched an opposition movement against the Tunisian regime.
Later, in 1965, the tensions were increased after Bourguiba's famous speech in the Palestinian city Jericho and his call for dialogue with Israel on basis of the 1948 partition decision of Palestine, which Abdel Nasser considered as an exit of the Arab row.
On 17/12/2017, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry left for Tunisia to take part in the fourth coordinating committee grouping the foreign ministers of Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria. The meeting tackled the latest developments of the Libyan crisis in light of the initiative of Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi to find a comprehensive settlement to the Libyan crisis.
On 12/11/2017, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi received Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed and had talks on a raft of regional issues alongside enhancing cooperation, especially in the economic domain. Chahed conveyed greetings of Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, stressing the depth of bilateral ties, highlighting the role played by Egypt which is deemed bedrock of security and stability in the Arab world.
On 11/11/2017, a Higher Joint Egyptian-Tunisian Committee started work chaired by the prime ministers Sherif Ismail of Egypt and Tunisia's Youssef al Shahed.
On 10/7/2017, Tunisian Minister of Vocational Training and Employment Emad Hamami visited Ismailia Governorate accompanied by Manpower Minister Mohamed Saafan and praised the efforts exerted in the completion of major national projects and the project of the new city of Ismailia.
On 11/6/2017, Youth and Sports Minister Khalid Abdel Aziz visited Tunisia to ink a cooperation protocol between Egypt and Tunisia pertaining to the executive program in the sports field. Abdel Aziz also attended the football match between the Egyptian and Tunisian national football teams held in Rades Stadium within the framework of the first round of the qualifiers for the African Cup of Nations 2019 to be organized in Cameroon.
On 30/4/2017, Egypt's candidate for the post of UNESCO director general Moushira Khattab was awarded the first edition of the Fatima Fihriya Prize in Tunisia.
On 19/2/2017, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry visited Tunisia to attend a meeting of the foreign ministers of Libya's neighbors, namely Tunisia and Algeria. The meeting aimed at holding consultations on the Libyan file and coordinating stances among the three neighbors on efforts exerted to end the Libyan crisis.
On 24/1/2017, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri visited Tunisia, heading Egypt's delegation in a political consultation mechanism meeting between the two countries.
On 4/10/2015, Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi visited Egypt, and he was received by President Abdel Fattah El Sisi. The meeting discussed means of enhancing bilateral relations and a number of regional issues of common concern, especially the Libyan crisis and developments in the Middle East.
On 8/9/2015, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab has conveyed a message from President Abdel Fattah El Sisi to his Tunisian counterpart Beji Caid Essebsi on the latest Arab and international developments. The message also touched upon means of boosting bilateral relations. Sisi also invited Essebsi to visit Egypt to complete talks on bilateral cooperation. Mahlab is in Tunisia to attend meetings of the joint high committee .
On 6/5/2015, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi received Tunisian Presidential Cabinet director Ridha Belhaj. They discussed the relations between the two countries and means of promoting them .
On 27/3/2015, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi held talks with his Tunisian counterpart Beji Caid Essebsi who arrived in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh to take part in the 26th meeting of the Arab summit .
On 28/2/2015, Assistant Foreign Minister Ambassador Osama Majdoub met his Tunisian counterpart Tohamy Abdouly within the framework of meetings conducted by Majdoub during his visit to Tunisia with officials of the foreign and interior ministries, for consultation about the deteriorating situation in Libya, and ways to counter the threat of terrorist organizations in the region. Majdoub renewed thanks to the facilities offered by the Tunisian authorities to bring home Egyptians who fled the conflict in Libya .
On 4/8/2014, Egypt expressed sincerest thanks for Tunisia for the assistance it offered to the Egyptians who are stranded on its borders with Libya and the facilities extended with the aim of facilitating their return to Egypt. Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said in a joint press conference with Tunisian Prime Minister Mahdi Gomaa that Tunisia's security is inseparable from Egypt's, adding that President Abdel Fattah El Sisi assigned him to visit Tunisia to facilitate the return of the Egyptians who are stranded on Libyan-Tunisian borders. Shoukry noted that the Tunisian Prime Minister gave directives to different bodies to facilitate the return of the stranded Egyptians as soon as possible and to facilitate evacuation measures .
On 14 and December 15, 2009, Assistant Foreign Minister for Consular Affairs visited Tunisia to head the Egyptian side in the work of the tenth session of the Joint Committee on the consular affairs .
On 31 March to April 2, 2009, a delegation from the Ministry of Electricity participated in the fifth meeting of the joint technical committee in the field of electricity .
On 26 and February 27, 2009, the visit of Ambassador / Abdel Rahman Salah, Assistant Foreign Minister for Arab Affairs to head the Egyptian side in a round of political talks .
On 27 and 30 January 2009, A delegation from the Ministry of Scientific Research under the chairmanship of Prof. Dr. Mohamed Tarek Hussein President of the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology attended the meetings of the Technical Committee of the Egyptian-Tunisian cooperation in the field of higher education.
The trade and economic relations between the two countries have witnessed continuous interaction and growth, as the volume of trade exchange reached 140 million dollars during the period from January to July 2015. Egyptian exports recorded 101 million dollars, while Tunisian imports reached 39 million dollars.
By the end of 2014, the Tunisian investments in Egypt reached about 35 million dollars in the fields of petroleum services, tourism, food industries, land reclamation, transport, cars spare parts and light industries, while the Egyptian investments in Tunisia reached 2.2 million dollars represented in a factory of tobacco and other in furniture and electrical appliances sector. Tunisia is ranked the 54th among the countries investing in Egypt.
A number of agreements have been signed including:
• A free trade agreement (March 5, 1998).
• The Agadir Agreement for the Establishment of a Free Trade Zone between the Arabic Mediterranean Nations being signed in Rabat, Morocco on 25 February 2004 aiming at establishing a free trade area between Jordan, Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco and this was seen as a possible first step in the establishment of the Euro-Mediterranean free trade area as envisaged in the Barcelona Process.
• The Pan-Arab Free Trade Area, which came into effect on January 1, 2005.
On 8/9/2015, Prime Minister and his Tunisian counterpart witnessed the signing of 16 agreements at the close of meetings of a joint higher committee. The two sides inked memorandums of understanding to cooperate in the fields of water resources and irrigation, stock exchange and consumer protection, as well as MoU on cooperation between the Social Fund for Development (SFD) and the Tunisian Solidarity Bank. They also signed executive programs for cooperation in the fields of environment preservation, tourism, youth, sports, childhood, education, media and traditional industries.
On 12/11/2017, Prime Minister and Tunisian Prime Minister attended the signing of a number of agreements and memorandum of understandings between both countries. The agreements and memorandum of understandings were signed at the conclusion of the 16th session of the joint Egyptian-Tunisian higher committee and they focus on cooperation between the two countries in various fields, especially the finance field.
The memorandum of understandings and agreements also focus on cooperation between the two States in establishing projects in the land and maritime transportation, as well as meteorology, renewable energy, health, sports and trade fields.
The Egyptian-Tunisian cultural relations are exceptionally strong as the Egyptian artistic teams participated in a large number of Tunisian festivals.
Egypt participated in the 18th International Theater Festival in Tunisia.
On April 25, 2010: The Opera House's Company for Modern Dancing participated in an international festival in Tunisia.
On November 10, 2009: An Egyptian cultural week was held in Qayrawan on the occasion of celebrating the city having been chosen as the Islamic Cultural Capital 2009.
On November 3, 2012: Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali opened the Egyptian pavilion at the 29th edition of the Tunis International Book Fair, reflecting the depth of the Egyptian Tunisian relations.
Currently, Egypt participates in more than 30 exhibitions of arts and folklore, as well as participating in most of the cultural festivals and events in Tunisia, especially the book fair held in October, 2014.
The Egyptian-Tunisian relations are witnessing several tourism activities, including the signing of a number of memorandums of understanding and executive programs between the two countries, including the "Executive Program for Cooperation in the Field of Tourism", signed by the former Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab on September 8, 2015.
An executive program for promoting cooperation has been signed between the two countries. Tunisian officials have been invited for an introduction to Egypt's experiment in promoting entertainment tourism in Cairo. It is worth to mention the following statistics:
- Egypt-bound Tunisian tourists reached 38,719 in 2009; they spent 288,894 nights.
- During 2014, despite the difficult economic conditions in both countries and security instability, some 13,000 Tunisians visited Egypt.