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Volume 522: debated on Tuesday 1 February 2011

I called the outgoing Foreign Minister of the Tunisian Government last week to urge the Tunisian Government to reach out to the Opposition. We welcome the reshuffle that was announced on 27 January. The Tunisian Government should now build on that by implementing reform commitments, and I hope they will also ask for assistance not only in elections, but in building democratic institutions.

Does the Foreign Secretary recognise that the mass demonstrations in Tunisia may have gone off the screens, but they have not gone off the streets of the capital, and that demands are still being made there for human rights, freedom and democracy, an end to one-party rule and, above all, economic justice, because the neo-liberal economics has led to massive levels of youth unemployment, which has sparked off the wave of revolt across north Africa?

Broadly, yes. We should welcome the steps taken by the Tunisian authorities to liberalise the media, release many political prisoners and establish commissions to investigate corruption and human rights abuses during the recent unrest. We discussed this at the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union yesterday and are ready in the EU to provide immediate assistance to prepare and organise the electoral process and support a genuine democratic transition.