French PM pledges to help Tunisia reform
French Prime Minister Jean Castex on Thursday pledged to help Tunisia forge ahead with reforms, as the North African country grapples with a deep economic crisis compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Castex said Paris was ready to help Tunisia, a former French colony he described as a "friend", carry out economic and social reform that could improve conditions, with unemployment rates standing at 18 percent.
"These reforms are important for Tunisia, for the Tunisian people and for the Franco-Tunisian partnership," Castex said after talks with his Tunisian counterpart Hichem Mechichi.
Castex also discussed the return of radicalised Tunisians who live in France.
Last year, Paris gave Tunis a list of some 20 Tunisians it wanted to expel, because they had been convicted on terrorism charges or were suspected of jihadist links.
Castex also held talks on how to stem the flow of illegal sea crossings, with Tunisia acting as a key launch pad for many of those risking the dangerous journey from North Africa to Europe.
A decade since its 2011 revolution, Tunisia country faces political and economic crises.
Tunisia is hoping to secure a three-year loan in exchange for implementing reform from the International Monetary Fund, which expects to see GDP growth of 3.8 percent this year, after an unprecedented 8.9 percent contraction in 2020.
France last year pledged to lend Tunis 350 million euros, with 100 million euros handed over so far.
France also sent three oxygen concentrators, 18 ventilators and more than 200,000 face masks to help Tunisia's health authorities cope with a spike in Covid-19 cases.
Tunisia, a country of almost 12 million, has officially recorded more than 348,000 coronavirus cases and 12,793 deaths.
Last month Mechichi said the country was going through "the worst health crisis in its history" and that health facilities were at risk of collapse.