Wacef Chiha / Tunisia’s Ambassador
Alberto Rubio. 22/05/2018
The municipal elections of May 9 “constitute a decisive stage in the successful process of democratic transition in Tunisia”, Wacef Chiha affirms. Although he admits that participation was low, the ambassador is satisfied and points out “the role of women and the youth in the future management of local affairs, after 47% of women and 62% of the youth were elected city councilors.
80% of the Tunisian people think that the country is not going on the right direction. However, both Macron and Rajoy have recently emphasized the validity of its democracy. Why these different perceptions?
It is due to the gap between the success of the political transition and the establishment of a new development model beneficial to everyone. There is still much left to be done in order to reduce unemployment, to improve the economic growth, to control inflation, to develop interior regions, to promote investments and to improve the quality of life of the Tunisian. It is true.
Therefore, Tunisia is working with the EU to integrate into the European market as a privileged partner and to participate in its development programs.
With Spain, for instance, we celebrated, on February 26, the eighth Top-Level Meeting. It was an opportunity to strengthen friendship and cooperation ties, but also to promote economic exchanges and the investment of Spanish companies, especially in infrastructures, transport, renewable energy, water management and environment.
Has terrorism in Tunisia been defeated?
After the attacks of 2015, Tunisia has deeply changed its policy against terrorism, which was strengthened due to the instability in Libya. Those changes include not only the modernization of the security framework, but also other reforms in education, culture, social development and political and religious speeches, with the support of all the political forces and the citizens. Thanks to that, terrorism has been defeated in Tunisia.
Will the state of emergency end soon?
That depends on several factors in a moment in which we are preparing to host the great pilgrimage of the Jews in Djerba, with more than 6,000 people taking part, and the high season of tourism, in which we expect to receive 8 million foreign visitors.
Does the return of the 3,000 Tunisian people serving in the Islamic State concern you?
We already have the legal mechanisms necessary to face that return. We have signed a collaboration agreement on security with Spain and we cooperate with other friend countries. Terrorism, violence and cross-border crime cannot be managed without an efficient regional and international cooperation.
Furthermore, the conditions that favored the recruitment of the youth have radically changed. The religious speech and the activities of suspicious NGOs are controlled, we have created an environment for the youth to be able to express themselves freely and participate in the political, economic and social life, as well as in the cultural life that has been enriched through the freedom of expression.
Is Tunisia a safe country for foreign visitors again?
Without a doubt. According to the travel recommendations made by the European Foreign Ministries, travelling to Tunisia does not entail more risk than going to other tourist countries. It is a completely safe country for the millions of foreign visitors coming to us.
Tourism continues to recover in 2018. Will it follow the same line?
The number of European visitors has increased until the end of April by 45%, so we expect the arrival of 8 million in 2018 and of 10 million in 2020. Tour operators already recovered their travel programs to Tunisia last year. Moreover, Russia and China’s operators continue to increase their programs. Tourists from France, Germany and Russia exceed the half million each, every year, and Algeria 2.5 million. As for those from Great Britain, Belgium and China, they are growing at a pace of more than 100%.
What type of tourism is Tunisia’s objective? Adventure, cultural, gastronomic…?
A mixture of all of them. We offer a wide range of tourist products, since most of the hotels are of 4 and 5 stars. However, the authorities are working to develop the cultural and ecologic tourism.
Our country has a rich history of more than 3,000 years. Berbers, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, the birth of the Tunisian national movement. All of them have left an inestimable, rich and diverse legacy. On the other hand, we offer a diversity of landscapes such as sand beaches along the 1,300 km of Mediterranean coast, mountains and forests in the north, desert and oasis in the south.